Once the paper version of Belgium's Passenger Locator Form (PLF) disappears from Friday 1 October, returning travellers will be given 180 days to correctly complete the document electronically.
Until now, all Belgian residents who went abroad for more than 48 hours were required to complete a PLF within 48 hours of their return. But from tomorrow, the document can be completed up to 180 days in advance - well before the journey even takes place.
"We want to give people the flexibility to start preparing well in advance, especially people who are not used to working with electronics and QR codes and so on," Arne Brinckman, spokesperson for Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke, told The Brussels Times.
"This way, they have plenty of time to get everything in order now that the paper version of the PLF is disappearing," he added.
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However, travellers are under no obligation to complete the form so far in advance, Brinckman stressed. "You can do it a month or a week in advance if you want, or 48 hours - like now - if that is easier. The main thing that changes is that people will have more time."
Additionally, filling out the PLF in advance will allow people to know what rules they will have to respect once they return to Belgium. "But if the situation changes, making adjustments afterwards will still be possible. We want to focus on giving people that extra flexibility."
The possibility of printing out the received QR code after completing the electronic form also remains, and a number of accompanying measures will be put in place, such as help with completing the form and/or printing out the QR code. There will also be a 14-day transition period.
The PLF was introduced last year to make it easier for the authorities to keep track of people travelling to Belgium and Belgian residents returning from a trip abroad, in case of a confirmed coronavirus infection.
People who enter Belgium from a risk area and may have been infected receive a text message after their return, giving them a code for a Covid-19 test and informing them whether they have to quarantine.
In case of a positive test, it also allows the authorities to trace passengers who were on the same plane as the infected person, for example. The data of such a PLF form are kept for 28 days.