They were completely surprised by it, says Twente entrepreneur Jurgen Keizers. But there is no escape: since this week, he has to have all 45 Dutch employees who work at the German branch of his company tested for corona every three days. That costs him thousands of euros per week. “Too bad money.”
At the beginning of this week, the German government designated the Netherlands as a ‘high-risk area’ due to the increasing corona infections. The number of infections per 100,000 inhabitants is currently more than twice as high in the Netherlands as in Germany. That is why Dutch people who want to enter Germany must be able to show a negative corona test of no more than two days since Tuesday. Since then, many residents and entrepreneurs along the entire border have been in an unreal situation, just like Keizers.
But nowhere does it produce such absurd scenes as in Dinxperlo. This village in the Achterhoek borders the German neighboring municipality of Suderwick. The border runs right through the street, says mayor Anton Stapelkamp van Aalten, which includes Dinxperlo. “The street is Dutch territory, but the sidewalk on the south side is Germany.”
Shopping in two countries
The inhabitants do their shopping in two countries. On one side of the street is the Dutch Jumbo, on the other side is the German Penny Markt, the bakery and the petrol station where the Dutch can refuel cheaply. Hundreds of Dutch people live on the other side of the border and often take their children to school in the Netherlands. There are many mixed marriages, families live on both sides of the border.
‘I spoke to a divorced couple with two children who each live on the other side of the border,’ says Stapelkamp. ‘Do all four of them now have to be tested twice a week when they visit each other? It is especially difficult for informal carers, delivery services and border workers. ‘
On Thursday afternoon, the authorities also realized that this was no longer possible. They announced that an exception to the entry restrictions will be made for Dinxperlo / Suderwick. The details for this scheme, which should take effect as soon as possible, are still being worked out, according to a spokesman for the district government in Münster.
Meanwhile, the unrest and confusion along the rest of the border is no less, says Marie-Lou Perou, spokesman for the Euregion in Gronau, a partnership of municipalities and other authorities in the border region. Since Easter, their telephone has been ringing off the hook. Citizens and companies want to know where they stand. Are you still allowed to visit your parents on the other side of the border? Can the children still go to grandpa and grandma?
There are quite a few exceptions to the rule. For example, the test requirement does not apply to onward travelers. For commuters who have to cross the border regularly because of work, education or taking care of family members, the test can be up to three days old. The test requirement does not apply to parents who bring their children to school.
Costs: 90 euros
Another factor, says Perou, is that citizens in Germany can have themselves tested once a week for free. The Netherlands does not have such a scheme: anyone who wants proof of this must do a test at a commercial agency. That costs about 90 euros.
For a company, that quickly ends up in the paper, says Keizers, owner of Easy Sanitary Solutions, which supplies everything for the bathroom. ESS has a branch in Oldenzaal, but also one in Gildehaus, just across the border. At Easter, Keizers was informed through a colleague in Germany that that country was going to introduce travel restrictions.
“I immediately called Easter Monday because we knew nothing about it and were not prepared for anything.” Keizers managed to assemble a commercial testing agency that tested all its staff on Tuesday. ‘That costs me about nine thousand euros a week. You’re done with that. ‘
The same happened to Martin Nieuwmeijer of Flexxolutions. His company, which manufactures tarpaulin covers, has its office in Oldenzaal. But the production location is in Bad Bentheim, on the other side of the border. About 25 Dutch people work there. “That was a problem.”
Nieuwmeijer also hastily hired a test company. His entire staff was tested on Wednesday. ‘The same tune has to be repeated on Monday. And again on Wednesday. ‘ There is little or no patrol at the border, says Nieuwmeijer. The German authorities have announced that only spot checks are carried out. ‘But as a serious employer you cannot say: never mind.’
Meanwhile, the unrest in Dinxperlo has not completely subsided. Because what exactly will those exception rules look like? No more police checks is one of the solutions mentioned. But then there is a risk that travelers who want to cross the border without a test will have a pull, Stapelkamp fears. Free rapid testing along the border is another.
But according to Stapelkamp, the best solution is for the Dutch to adhere to the corona measures so that the infection figures drop and Germany can lift the entry restrictions. Until then, I say to my residents: limit yourself to the most necessary. You can do without those German sandwiches for a while. ‘