BRUSSELS — Belgium is banning all leisure travel abroad for its citizens as of next week and until March, in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 and its virulent variants.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said Friday that “when people travel, the virus travels with them.”
He said visitors from Britain, South Africa and South America will have to quarantine for ten days to make sure they don’t bring dangerous variants into Belgium.
The move came one day after the 27 European Union leaders said that borders within the bloc needed to remain open to assure essential transport and movement of workers, but left it up to member states to take other measures they deemed necessary.
In Belgium only essential business, family and humanitarian travel will still be allowed from next week until March. Over the past year, Belgium has seen a spike in cases after popular holidays because of returning travellers. February is the traditional month for Belgians to go skiing in the Alps or fly down south for warmth.
The EU itself is also preparing measures that should make travel more difficult, including an introduction of new trans-border “dark red zones” where infections rates are particularly high and where all non-essential travel should be discouraged. Travellers from these areas could be required to undergo tests before their departure and be placed in isolation upon arrival in another location.
One of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, Belgium has reported more than 686,000 confirmed infections and 20,620 deaths linked to the coronavirus.
Over the past weeks, Belgium has been able to contain the virus’ spread better than many other EU nations and De Croo said he did not want to put this at risk by allowing holiday travel throughout the critical next month.
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Raf Casert, The Associated Press