Travellers not trusted to be honest in Belgium’s self-evaluation form
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Travellers not trusted to be honest in Belgium’s self-evaluation form

Credit: Belga

Belgium’s self-assessment system of determining whether red-zone travellers have to quarantine is being heavily criticised, as many do not trust travellers to answer honestly.

Through a number of questions on the mandatory Passenger Location Form (PLF) that travellers entering Belgium have to complete, the authorities check whether or not the traveller should quarantine for seven days, and undergo a Covid-19 test.

However, that is not a watertight system, as the government mainly relies on people’s honesty, with no real way of checking, according to Jochen Nijs, doctor at the Sint-Trudo Hospital in Limburg.

“Maybe we should also ‘strongly discourage’ alcohol in traffic and then install a self-assessment system,” Nijs tweeted in a reaction to the news.

While the Consultative Committee underlined its advice against travelling abroad – with Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke calling it “just stupid” – during the holidays, travellers coming from a red zone do not automatically have to quarantine.

“Someone who went to a red zone but spent it all alone in a hut on the top of a mountain is not a risk,” Vandenbroucke said on Friday.

The calculation of this risk score on the PLF will be tightened up, however, with several questions to determine the final result, he explained.

“People are, of course, going to fill in the form in such a way that their answers will cause them maximum inconvenience,” a Twitter user reacted. “What are we even doing?”

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“Quiz question, which boxes do you have to tick if you want to go into quarantine?” someone else said.

On Monday morning, chair of Belgium’s Interfederal Testing & Tracing Committee Karine Moykens reacted that “the government can hardly travel with people to check [if they are honest].”

“In any case, travel is strongly discouraged. It is everyone’s free choice to travel,” she said on Flemish radio. “If you do choose to go, we will not stop you and ask you to fill in the form correctly.”

The government hopes it can count on people’s “civic spirit,” and that people take their responsibility, with their fellow citizens in mind, Moykens said, stressing that travellers’ risk behaviour will be assessed more rigorously.

“We will monitor more closely what has been filled in. There is a big difference between going for a holiday to hike with your own family, and going with a large group of friends or several families together,” Moykens said.

Additionally, travellers who have been abroad for less than 48 hours are not required to complete the form, but Belgium has no real way of checking that.

“If we see cars full of suitcases, the police will ask some questions,” she said. “There are more controls at borders, ports and airports now as well.”

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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