Belgian mayors race to quell coronavirus clusters after Portugal youth trip
Share article:
Share article:

Belgian mayors race to quell coronavirus clusters after Portugal youth trip

Credit: Summer Bash - Jongerenreizen/Facebook

Belgian authorities in the coast are scrambling to contain the emergence of coronavirus hotspots following the detection of dozens of imported cases from a group of young holidaymakers back from Portugal.

At least 77 confirmed coronavirus cases have been imported into Belgium as Flemish youth return from group holidays organised by travel agency Summer Bash in the resort city of Albufeira, in the southern region of Algarve.

Following reports of the outbreak among the group on Wednesday, a Portuguese health official hit out at the agency for failing to keep the travel group in check with regulations and said it was unclear where the source of the infection came from.

“There is no guarantee that it was from a resident in Portugal,” Graça Freitas, head of Portugal’s Directorate-General of Health, said on Wednesday afternoon, Portuguese media reports.

Related News:


“We know that the organisers of these trips have already admitted that these young people not always complied with safety rules.”

The organisation has since issued an apology on social media, in which it said that the coronavirus pandemic “caught up with us.”

Jordy S’Jongers, trip coordinator at Summer Bash confirmed to The Brussels Times that the agency did not require participants to the trip to Albufeira to get a negative coronavirus test before departure, because health regulations in Portugal did not require it.

“We would have imagined the end of our summer differently,” the agency wrote on Facebook. “As an organization, we take responsibility and are very aware of the disastrous consequences our numbers have for many young people, their parents, relatives, friends…”

Freitas said that the source of the current outbreak remained unclear and said it was possible that one of the young Belgians “from that large group that stayed Albufeira” was already infected with the virus.

‘Too late’ for some Flemish municipalities

Initial reports on Wednesday confirmed that 67 youths that participated in the holiday trip had tested positive for the virus upon return, a figure which swelled to 77 on Thursday.

Flemish authorities have expressed concern over the imported cases and have also reported that the youngsters have already begun spreading it among local populations.

In an update posted on social media on Wednesday, the travel agency said that a majority of the cases (31) originating from their Summer Bash trip were imported into the province of West Flanders followed by the Flemish Periphery of Brussels (8).

The organisation also listed over a dozen municipalities were cases had also been reported including in the provinces of Antwerp and in the Walloon province of Hainaut.

The governor of West Flanders said the emergence of clusters were the result of “reckless behaviour” and urged young people in the area to limit contact with their parents and grandparents after at least one of the young holidaymakers was confirmed to have infected a parent, Het Niuewsblad reports.

In statements to the newspaper, S’Jongers, 29, confirmed that despite efforts by the agency, staff members “couldn’t possibly tie all of those youngsters up,” confirming that Summer Bash participants had contacted locals to attend gatherings and parties beyond the organisation’s radar.

Local authorities are worried that the return of the young holidaymakers could fuel a flare-up of the virus and the emergence of hotspots in their communities.

Kurt Vanryckeghem, the mayor of Waregem in West Flanders, has expressed concerns over the impact the imported cases could have on nursing homes, saying it may be “too late” for the municipality.

“It’s too late and together with all those young people we will have to collectively go through this,” he said.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Coronavirus: Average infections up by more than 50% from last week
Between 11 and 17 October, an average of 3,249 people were infected with Covid-19 every day in Belgium, according to figures from the Sciensano ...
Why Belgium is regulating sex work
After decades of confusing rules and hypocritical policy, Belgium is finally regulating sex work by removing prostitution from the criminal law. ...
Up to 100 km/h winds expected across Belgium on Wednesday night
Gusts of up to 100 km/h are expected across Belgium on Wednesday night, according to the Royal Meteorological Institute (RMI), which has issued a ...
Cycling traffic officially added to VRT’s traffic bulletin
Usually a list of updates for drivers on busy roads, traffic bulletins will now include the latest travel news for cyclists in Belgium, VRT announced ...
MEPs call for European strategy to protect workers from asbestos
Members of the European Parliament are calling on the Commission to create a strategy for removing all abestos from buildings in order to reduce the ...
Mandatory vaccine for carers: employers call for sanctions
In a notice submitted by the National Council for Work (CNT), employers have called for heavy penalties for healthcare workers who refuse to receive ...
Police pension protest blocks several Brussels crossroads
On Wednesday, around 350 police officers expressed their dissatisfaction about the unclear pension scheme, low salaries and politicised police unions ...
Belgium in Brief: A Consultative Committee Sequel
Sequels often have a lot to live up to and when it comes to movie franchises, it gets difficult to keep up the hype once you get towards the final ...
Windy weather forecast should lower gas prices
After weeks of relatively calm conditions, a return to windy weather should lower Europe's soaring energy prices. Wind turbines in the UK and Germany ...
EC calls on candidate countries to focus on fundamental reforms before they can join the EU
The European Commission adopted yesterday its 2021 Enlargement Package, providing a detailed assessment of the state of play and the progress made by ...
Cigarette-eating robot patrols Ghent streets to fight littering
A litter fighting (and eating) robot will be patrolling the streets of Ghent in the coming weeks in an effort to raise awareness of the growing ...
Display of child’s room in Brussels raises awareness of foster families
An exhibit that features a fictitious child’s bedroom has been on display since Tuesday at the Place d'Armes in Namur, with the support of the ...