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Stay at home and don't cross-border shop, leaders urge Europeans

The borders between the three countries remain open, but leaders have appealed to residents to stay home

The borders between the three countries remain open, but leaders have appealed to residents to stay home

In a three-minute, four-language video appeal, the premiers of Belgium, the Netherlands and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) in neighboring Germany have urged their combined 47 million residents to "stay at home."

Cross-border solidarity meant not spreading the coronavirus by shunning outings — normally easy in borderless Europe, said Belgium's Alexander De Croo, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and NRW's Armin Laschet on Thursday.

"Not for shopping, not for fun," pleaded Rutte, warning that the "reality" was that when people crossed borders so too did COVID-19.

"Therefore I call on every one of you: only drive across the border when it is absolutely essential," urged Rutte, prefacing his remarks with compliments on the "great" food, culture, city and rural landscapes normally enjoyed in Belgium and Germany.

All three hubs share Europe's Rhine River catchment — at least in part — and span a combined area of 106,000 square kilometers (41,000 square miles).

Addressing viewers in English as "the best of neighbors" and ending in French and German, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said "unfortunately this means staying in one's home country."

"Abiding by the rules, only crossing the border for essential travel. Not for fun, not to shop with friends and family," he said, "was the only way to beat the virus."

"The better we follow the rules, the sooner we can meet again," added De Croo, a incentive message reiterated by the two other leaders.

'Self-restraint' needed

The premier of Germany's most populous state, Armin Laschet, said the pandemic had hit "NRW as well as our neighbors" hard.

"Today, solidarity with our neighbors and friends means above all: self-restraint," said Laschet, urging: "Please, stay at home!"

With many retailers shut under pandemic lockdowns, in NRW and the Netherlands, Laschet urged: "Do not go to Belgium for shopping," and ended his appeal in four languages: "Thank you, Bedankt! Merci! Danke!"

From Monday, all shops in the Netherlands except for those designated essential such as food stores and pharmacies were closed for five weeks.

From Wednesday, Germany's 16 federal states followed suit, preceded by its eastern Saxony state where coronavirus infections were already high.

ipj/rt (dpa, AFP)