Key Belgian federal government ministers are expected to decide on Monday on strengthening the rules for people travelling abroad, federal Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet said.
“It is no longer time to travel for leisure reasons,” Gilkinet told RTBF radio ahead of a select ministerial committee dedicated to fighting the spread of the new coronavirus and its variants.
Faced with the appearance of new variants, including the more contagious British variant in several places, travel abroad is “even more than strongly discouraged,” while the situation is even “more dramatic” in neighbouring countries, Gilkinet added.
According to him, “we cannot accept that some should undermine the effort made by all the others.”
“There is no European agreement to close the borders” between European countries, he stressed, however, recalling the ideal of freedom of movement and the fact that some people had to move for family or professional reasons.
At the same time, federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said that a ban on non-essential travel was not on the table, while the government might take further steps “by discouraging trips abroad and making them more difficult.”
Easier said than done
Closing Belgium’s borders is easier said than done, as it “lies at a crossroads in Europe,” Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden said on Flemish radio.
“People move across borders to go to an essential shop or to see a doctor. For those journeys, it seems far-fetched to ask people for tests or to quarantine them each time,” she said.
“In the European context, we have agreed not to do this unilaterally,” Verlinden said. “We will have to look into this, but it is not the preferred route.”
This is made even more complicated by the fact that as Belgium is a member of the European Union, it is technically not allowed to decide to close its borders on its own, as previously reported.