End of goodwill: Returnees should prove they are covid free, expert warns
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End of goodwill: Returnees should prove they are covid free, expert warns

Credit: Belga

Belgian experts are calling for a mandatory coronavirus test result and quarantine for residents returning from travel, after fears that returning vacationers could send the country back into a coronavirus spike.

The current Passenger Locator Form – which is meant to keep track of where people have been – does not do enough, infectious disease expert Erika Vlieghe told Radio 1 on Wednesday.

“What we have now is not safe or solid enough. We can’t afford a system based solely on goodwill at this stage,” Vlieghe – who is also the chair of Belgian coronavirus advisory body GEMS – explained.

“That system (PLF, ed) was set up in the summer at a time when there was much less viral circulation. It is a vulnerable system to misuse, abuse or no use. We can no longer afford that at this stage of the epidemic”.

As it stands, only non-residents entering Belgium have to present a negative test, a rule which has been in place since 25 December. Belgian residents returning from abroad do not have to submit a negative test, and such a scheme lacks any framework.

To Vlieghe, this lack of foresight is a worrying sign ahead of Sunday evening, when the Christmas vacations are coming to an end and travellers start to return.   However, due to a massive influx of travel abroad over the holiday period, Vlieghe fears that returning travellers could cause a problem in Belgium.

“We now have reasonable figures. This is not a time to travel,” she added.

These comments come a day after the infectious disease expert made similar comments in De Standaard on Tuesday, where Vlieghe also proposed that in order to prevent a surge after the Christmas break, it is necessary to tighten Belgium’s border rules beyond targeting just travellers.

“The border policy should be stricter,” said Vlieghe. “From an epidemiological point of view, I don’t see the difference between a non-Belgian and a Belgian who has been abroad,” she added.

GEMS has advocated not only quarantining Belgians returning from a red zone, but also having them take a corona test. The government will decide on the advice later on Wednesday, according to De Morgen. 

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times