Second home-owners allowed back to the coast

Summary

Beach cabins can also reopen, but short-term renters and day-trippers told to stay away

Lucky few

A relaxation in the coronavirus restrictions this week means people with second homes in Belgium can legally visit them again. The rule change, which hadn’t been expected until early June, came just in time for the long holiday weekend.

While the change applies equally to cabins in the Ardennes and caravan sites in Limburg, most attention has focused on the coast. Mayors from coastal towns had protested that the continued restrictions were damaging and unnecessary, while home-owners had threatened to take the government to court.

But Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon maintained that the decision to change the rules early reflected a reassessment of health risks. “Initially, in order to prevent the virus spreading, there was a distinction between essential and non-essential travel,” he told VRT. “But now we are in a phase where shops are open again, for example, and people are moving about, so that distinction is less important.”

The decision covers houses, apartments and mobile homes with a fixed site. Those allowed to visit include owners, tenants who have been renting for more than a year, and members of the same household.

The four people from the same “social bubble” permitted to visit a main residence can also be invited to the second home, but the same rules apply: stay 1.5m apart, and no overnight visits.

That said, controls are not expected to be strict. “We don't live in a police state where we’re going to have the cops following everyone, and we won’t check people’s homes to make sure they are keeping the rule of four,” Jambon said. “It’s a task for the people themselves, and we appeal to everyone’s sense of responsibility.”

Cabin fever

A similar rule change means that beach cabins can be reopened, with the coastal mayors given the final say about how this will be managed.

Ostend announced that the decision will apply only to local residents and second home-owners who have rented cabins for the whole season. Only people from the same household or its bubble should use the cabin, and there should be no mixing between adjacent cabins.

Local residents and second home-owners without a cabin will also be able to sit on the beach for a short time. “For residents of Ostend, many of whom live in apartments, the beach is their garden,” the city council reasoned.

But picnicking and sunbathing are forbidden, and police patrols will be stepped up to make sure the rules are kept.

Later in the summer, when the beaches are opened to day-trippers, Ostend has announced it will operate a reservation system to prevent overcrowding.

Photo: Belga/Thierry Roge

Flemish coast

The Flemish coast is a 67-kilometre sandy stretch on the North Sea. With its wide beaches, quiet dunes and polders, it’s Flanders’ most-visited tourist attraction.
Day-trippers - A two-hour drive at worst from most Flemish cities, the coast especially draws day tourists during the summer.
Kusttram - Connecting Knokke all the way to De Panne, the “Coast Tram” is the staple means of transportation along the coast. It’s the longest tramline in the world.
Theater Aan Zee - Every summer, a 10-day music and theatre festival is organised in and around Ostend.
10

coast municipalities

67

kilometres long

3

million visitors annually