Tourist travel should not be allowed yet, says Marc Van Ranst
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Tourist travel should not be allowed yet, says Marc Van Ranst

Credit: Belga

After two regions in Spain have been placed back into lockdown, Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst stressed that going on holiday abroad should not be allowed yet.

Three people from the region in Catalonia that has been placed in lockdown again reportedly landed in Belgium, and were asked to self-isolate.

“You already know that there will be similar hot-spots all summer,” Van Ranst told VRT. “Now, it is a non-tourist region, but what if it is a city or a popular holiday resort?”

Van Ranst said that he can understand that people go abroad, for their partner or their children, for example. “But tourist travel really was not okay for me yet. I also think a lot of people were ready for a holiday in their own country,” he said.

Since 15 June, most EU countries reopened their borders, we are not ready to deal with the consequences, according to Van Ranst.

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“Suppose you were to require a test or a quarantine, that would be impossible. The government does not know where everyone is,” he said, adding keeping track of people returning by car is almost not possible.

“And people who return by plane can perfectly well say that they come from somewhere else. That makes it impossible to make any policy,” Van Ranst added.

The only thing that can be done, is asking people to self-quarantine. However, the government’s message could be stronger, he said.

Or you could prohibit tourist travel, as controlling it is very difficult, Van Ranst said. “My message remains: be careful with travel and do not do it if you do not need to,” he said.

“Don’t forget that 94% of the population has no antibodies. So they are in the same situation as [they were] in February. That is what worries me,” said Van Ranst.

On Saturday, Federal Health Minister Maggie De Block urged Belgians returning from the Spanish region of Catalonia to go into quarantine pending their test results, after the region put 200,000 people in lockdown again.

However, there is no legal basis for making such a self-isolation mandatory, according to De Block, who pointed to everyone’s “joint responsibility.”

All passengers travelling to Belgium by plane from Catalonia have to fill in a special document, on which they have to indicate where they have been. Additionally, they have to leave their contact details, which should make contact tracing easier, should it be necessary.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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