'It's a danger': virologists 'not thrilled' about EU border reopening

'It's a danger': virologists 'not thrilled' about EU border reopening
Credit: Belga

The idea of allowing foreign travellers back into the EU this summer is risky and anything but "thrilling," to health experts, state virologist Marc Van Ranst said.

"It's clear that virologists are not thrilled with the idea of the EU border reopening," Van Ranst said. "It constitutes a danger."

Van Ranst urged those itching to travel this summer to do as he intends to and stay put in their own country, in statements which come days after the EU lifted travel restrictions for 14 non-EU countries considered to have sufficiently contained the coronavirus pandemic.

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On Tuesday, the EU recommended member states to reopen to travellers from Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay. Chinese travellers would also be allowed if Beijing reciprocates the measure.

"The situation can shift in those countries from one to the other, it's a system that should be followed-up on a daily basis," Van Ranst said, adding: "There are no guarantees that in one of those countries, now considered safe, the virus will not flare up again."

"On top of that, we should not base ourselves on a country's global situation — we should look at the situation on a regional level: What is the virological risk in the precise regions where travellers are coming from?" he said, adding that this approach was especially key for large countries.

On Wednesday, Belgium said that it would be "very prudent" about the countries it would reopen to, hinting that it may not reopen to all the countries white-listed by the EU when a final decision is reached on 7 July.

While some countries that have begun reopening have imposed measures such as a systematic or randomised Covid-19 test at the airport or a mandatory quarantine, Van Ranst steered clear of recommending any of those measures, saying it was a decision to be made by politicians.

"In any case, as far as I'm concerned, you will not be seeing me on an airplane this summer. I think the risk is much too large," Van Ranst said.

"And I will certainly not be travelling outside of Europe. If you ask for my opinion, I would recommend you stay home," adding that an amusement park in the Netherlands may be his most distant travel destination this summer.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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