Over 17,000 people protest Belgian decision to make Spain a red travel zone in Facebook group

Over 17,000 people protest Belgian decision to make Spain a red travel zone in Facebook group
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Over 17,000 people, mainly Belgians, have joined a Facebook group to protest Belgium's decision to make Spain a red travel zone.

In the space of two weeks, approximately 17,700 people joined the group, called "Niet akkoord met Spanje ROOD" (Don't agree with Spain RED), to express their outrage caused by what they call "a very unjustified decision" by Belgium.

At the start of September, Belgium's Foreign Affairs Department assigned all of Spain, except Tenerife, a red colour code, meaning non-essential journeys to the country are no longer allowed, and returning travellers have to be tested and quarantined.

Currently, the islands of La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro, as well as Tenerife, are considered orange zones, meaning increased vigilance while travelling is necessary, and being tested and/or quarantined upon return is recommended.

Many residents, second-home owners and regular holidaymakers in Spain can confirm that the Covid-19 situation is not so bad in many places, and that people often feel safer than in Belgium, the group states on Facebook.

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"Belgium is turning Spain red, and that is totally wrong," Erik Claes, a Belgian member of the Facebook group who owns a B&B in Spain, and has been living there for years, said on VRT radio.

"They rely on WHO data. Yesterday, there were some 3,000 infections in Spain and 979 in Belgium. If you compare that with the number of inhabitants of both countries, I am not surprised that such groups are appearing on social media."

People are tired of the fact that Belgium can "just decide" to colour a country red, according to Claes, adding that such a decision has a lot of consequences for a country.

Some members of the group are even planning a court case against Belgium, and are currently looking into the possibility of hiring a lawyer. Within the group, a crowdfunding campaign has been started to raise money for this lawsuit.

The decision to assign Spain a red colour code, however, was "not taken lightly,” health officials said last week, in response to the many questions they received about the announcement.

Before changing Spain's colour code, Belgian experts looked at the number of infections in the country, the trend of the figures, and the percentage of positive tests, according to virologist Steven Van Gucht. "All these indicators are rising sharply in Spain," he said.

Additionally, Van Gucht clarified, Belgium is not the only country implementing restrictions for Spain, as several other EU countries also ask travellers to quarantine when returning from Spain, and others ask for a test.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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