Belgium in Brief: A Step Towards EU Wide Travel Rules

Belgium in Brief: A Step Towards EU Wide Travel Rules
Credit: Belga

As we come out of summer break, it’s safe to say that it has been a confusing time for many. Travel zones and restrictions, colours and rules, all things that we have had to come to terms with in recent months.

Travel has taken a hit this summer for a multitude of reasons – ranging from caution to bans – but as we come out of the busy season, attention is turning towards ways to prevent such a confusing situation for those still looking to depart.

In a tangible move, the current holder of the rotating EU presidency Germany is expected to put forward a proposal to harmonise the different travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic in Europe.

The proposal will be submitted on Wednesday, a European source told the Belga press agency.

“A coherent response is crucial to avoid a fragmented approach, as we saw earlier in the year, and to preserve the integrity of the Schengen area,” stresses the proposal.

As it stands, the main cause for confusion is the different approach in different countries. A quarantine imposed can currently vary from 10 to 14 days, with screening tests being required on departure or arrival, having been carried out 48 or 72 hours before. Additionally, the assessment and classification of “risk areas” currently varies greatly from country to country, sometimes with two or three categories.

Germany also wishes to standardise communication on travel restrictions decided by member States, sometimes implemented without the country concerned having been informed in advance.

So on top of that, what else is new? Travel news continues to dominate as Belgium develops policy surrounding arrivals from red zones, and a much anticipated free rail pass finally gets off the ground.

Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your lunch break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:

1. Belgian daily average hits 431 new coronavirus cases as schools reopen

An average of 431 people per day tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) in Belgium during the past week, according to the latest figures by Sciensano on the day the new school year starts.

The trend of new infections per day decreased by 12%, over the 7-day period from 22 to 28 August. The average number of new confirmed coronavirus infections in Belgium is continuing its decreasing trend. Read More.

2. Belgian mayor’s heart dug out of fountain during renovation works

A Walloon urban legend was confirmed as true on Tuesday after construction workers discovered the heart of the first mayor of the city from a fountain named after him.

Officials in the city of Verviers, east of Liège, said on Tuesday that the heart of the city’s first mayor, Pierre David, was found during renovation works of an eponymous fountain in the city centre. Read more.

3. Belgium launches free rail pass scheme

After several delays, Belgian railway company SNCB launched a website on which citizens can apply for their promised free rail pass, on the last day of the summer holidays.

The free pass, which holds 12 free trains rides for every Belgian resident over 12 years old, was part of a government decision to revive the tourism sector after the coronavirus crisis by promoting travel within the country. Read more.

4. Belgians given quarantine grace period to return from a new red zones

Anyone who is in a travel destination when it is classed as a high-risk (or red) zone can avoid a mandatory coronavirus test and quarantine if they return to Belgium within 48 hours of the change.

“A 48-hour delay will be given to travellers when a destination goes from orange to red, to allow them, if they wish, to return to Belgium under the conditions applied to orange zones,” Foreign Affairs Minister Philippe Goffin said. Read more.

5. Almost 15% of people on Brussels public transport wears mask incorrectly

A new study of Brussels public transport has shown that a high number of passengers do not properly wear their masks during their journey, prompting concerns from fellow passengers.

About 14% of passengers on public transport in Brussels do not wear their mask correctly, according to a test by news outlet Bruzz, which took tram line 3 from De Brouckère to Esplanade and back on Monday 31 August. Read more.

6. Belgium sees increased hostility towards cyclists

Motorists are becoming more hostile towards cyclists since the start of the coronavirus crisis, according to various groups for cyclists.

There are even anti-cyclist groups on Facebook calling for physical violence, NewMobility reported.

“Some friends have joined these groups to see what’s what,” said Valentin Thielemans, a cyclist and admin of a mountain bike group on Facebook. These groups have “photos and posts gratifying violence toward two-wheelers,” according to NewMobility, “with some keyboard warriors even boasting some ridiculous and dangerous feats.” Read more.

7. Evictions resume from 1 September in Brussels

Home evictions in Brussels will once again be possible from 1 September, following the end of a region-wide prohibition that has been in place since the start of the coronavirus crisis. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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