Only second-home owners will enjoy the pleasure of going to the beach for the moment. Day-trippers will have to wait. In a first phase, owners of a house of a flat or people renting a property for a period longer than one year, can come. In a second phase (when is not certain yet) those renting a place for a short period, or those that have a booked a place for the night will be welcome. Day-trippers will be the last ones to be welcome.
There are about 97,500 second homes at the Belgian coast. Meanwhile, cafés and restaurants will remain closed, but it is expected that many will seize the opportunity to come to the sea, especially with the excellent weather that is coming up.
The decision is being criticized by some: "Why does the government make this a priority, while there are so many other groups waiting for relaxations?", they argue.
The restricton was officially lifted a couple of hours later, when the change was published in the online version of the offical gazette "Het Staatsblad".
"Don't do this all of a sudden"
This morning, the West-Flemish governor Carl Decaluwé had warned against a sudden relaxation. "We will not be prepared if the ban would be lifted", he told the VRT's morning radio show "De ochtend".
A number of second-home owners had started legal action against the government to have the ban scrapped. At the same time, mayors of some coastal municipalities insisted on a relaxation, as did the Flemish PM Jan Jambon (N-VA) and Tourism Minister Zuhal Demir (N-VA) recently.
"But plans for the boardwalk and the beach are not ready", argues Decaluwé. "If tomorrow 200,000 second-home owners would arrive, this may trigger problems. People don't come here to stay in their flats or houses, but to have a walk at the seaside or on the beach."
He gave the example of the city of Ostend: under normal circumstances, up to 40,000 people are seen walking the sea-side lanes and beaches. But under the present corona measures, this should be no more than 8,000 or 9,000 to keep it safe.