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Belgium in Brief: Brussels’ Infection Blame Game

Credit: Belga/New Strain screengrab

Comments that travellers returning from vacations abroad played a part in the most recent jump in coronavirus infections within Brussels were met with criticism from the expat community, who feel they have been unfairly painted as a scapegoat in the current situation.

What’s important here, however, is to view the current numbers in the right context.

After all, under the current measures, nearly all travellers are required to get tested for the coronavirus. So let’s take a closer look at this.

As of 31 December, Belgium has required a mandatory quarantine after a stay of more than 48 hours in a red zone. This means that everyone (residents and non-residents) who returns to Belgium after a stay of at least 48 hours in a red zone will have to go into quarantine. A PCR test is required upon return on day 1 and day 7 of quarantine, and the quarantine can only be ended if the PCR test on day 7 shows a negative result.

So where does the expat community come into play, you ask? Well, they travel, and because they travel, they get tested.

According to Passenger Locator Forms, the vast majority of travellers who returned to the country returned to the Brussels region. Due to Belgium having no blanket testing strategy, travellers represent a disproportionate number of people who have been tested in the region, and then it’s just a matter of numbers:

More people travelling = More forms = More tests = More potential for testing positive.

What’s important here, however, is the difference between being blamed for a current spike in positive infections – something purely numerical in nature – and being blamed for the infection as a whole.

Let’s not lose sight of that.

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:



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Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times