Belgium in Brief: Is Travelling Abroad ‘Just Stupid’?
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Belgium in Brief: Is Travelling Abroad ‘Just Stupid’?

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Is it wise to travel abroad, or ‘just stupid’? In Belgium, that’s currently the debate.

Belgian Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke spoke out against travelling abroad in the current circumstances, telling the country that to him it is “just stupid.”

“Travelling abroad is a very bad idea. Quite frankly, it is just stupid,” Vandenbroucke said during the press conference following Friday’s meeting of the Consultative Committee.

“That is why we are going to have much stricter controls.”

This opposite opinion, however, is coming from the Belgian aviation industry, with CEO of Air Belgium Niky Terzakis accusing the government of ‘passenger shaming.’

“I was personally shocked to hear the Health Minister (Frank Vandenbroucke) say that people travelling today were stupid,” he said.

“This is unacceptable. The government is in the process of passenger-shaming,” Terzakis said. “Basically they say: ‘we are allowing flights, but we are going to multiply the controls and we are going to make you feel like it was a bad idea to leave’.”

In other news, new rules which have seen anyone who travelled from Belgium to the UK unable to return for at least 24h, with reports that Belgium could enforce measures lasting up to 2 weeks. 

More news on that later today. 

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. New UK coronavirus variant also found in Belgium, Van Gucht warns

The new variant of the coronavirus that was recently discovered in the United Kingdom has already appeared in Belgium, health officials said during a press conference on Monday.

The new mutation – which has seen the UK return to strict lockdown measures for the holiday period – has also been found “sporadically” in Belgium and the Netherlands, according to virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht. Read more.

2. People travelling abroad now ‘are not stupid,’ says Air Belgium boss

People who decide to leave Belgium and travel abroad right now are not stupid, as it is currently safer in some traditional holiday destinations than in Belgium, according to the CEO of Air Belgium, Niky Terzakis.

From 16 December, Air Belgium resumed its flights from Brussels South Charleroi Airport to the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, and the flights have been a success, Terzakis said. Read More.

3. Belgium could extend UK travel ban by ‘weeks’

Belgium is open to extending the current border closure with the UK, but it will only make the call once there has been coordination at the EU level.

According to Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden, Belgium’s federal government will communicate after the consultation at the European level on the new variant of the coronavirus that has resulted in a travel ban to and from the United Kingdom.

Belgium – alongside several other European countries – banned all passenger travel from the UK on Sunday for 24 hours, however this measure could be extended for one to two weeks. Read More.

4. How Belgium’s latest travel rules work

While travelling abroad remains “strongly discouraged,” Belgium’s Consultative Committee decided to further restrict the rules for those who still want to cross the border.

Anyone who comes to Belgium after having been in a red zone – which is currently almost the whole of Europe – for more than 48 hours will now be considered a high-risk contact, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced. Read More.

5. Ghent university hospital scales up Curevac vaccine testing

At least 400 people will be vaccinated at Ghent University Hospital (UZ Gent) with Curevac’s Covid-19 vaccine as it progresses to the third and final phase of clinical trials.

The vaccine was already being tested at UZ Gent, but from Monday, a larger group of people will get the vaccine administered as part of Curevac’s phase 3 trial, which should involve more than 35,000 people across Europe and Latin America. Read more.

6. Belgium’s third coronavirus wave ‘is here,’ expert warns

As all coronavirus figures in Belgium are rising again, the third wave of infections has started, according to intensivist Geert Meyfroidt (UZ Leuven).

“We already know that [the figures] will go up again after the Christmas holidays. We are not going to have the choice whether we step in or not, it will come at us. The third wave is here,” he said in Flemish television programme De Zevende Dag.

“There is going to be a surge, whether we call it ‘a wave’ or not,” said Meyfroidt. “All we can do is keep it as small as possible. That is really very important.” Read more.

7. Belgium leads the field in Europe for deep tech developments

Belgium, together with Switzerland, is leading the field in Europe for deep tech developments, according to research by specialist Omar Mohout of consultancy Sirris.

Deep tech is defined as technology that requires long periods of time to develop, and is based on breakthroughs in science and engineering.

By contrast, shallow tech is built upon existing technology and is more of an evolution than a big-bang breakthrough. Read More.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times