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Belgium counts on ‘common sense’ to not go to red zones

Credit: Belga/Eric Lalmand

Belgium issued a formal travel ban for areas it considers “red” and an obligation to quarantine when returning, but the authorities are counting on people’s common sense to respect the measure, as they have no real way of checking.

Belgium’s travel ban only applies to non-essential travel, meaning airlines can still fly, and people can still go if they have a valid reason.

“Red zones mean that non-essential travel is not allowed for those areas, but that does not mean that we are not allowed to fly,” Wencke Lemmes, spokesperson for Brussels Airlines, told The Brussels Times. “Also taking into account that we have non-Belgians on board,” she added.

Passengers on a flight to Lisbon, however, are not necessarily going to Lisbon, but could also be going to another region in Portugal, according to Lemmes. “Lisbon was one of the destinations for which there was a lot of demand over the past few weeks and days, so those flights are full,” she said.

Returning travellers who flew back via Lisbon, however, do not necessarily have to quarantine, according to Arnaud Gaspart, spokesperson for Foreign Affairs.

“The quarantine is only mandatory for people who stayed in certain areas, not people who just passed through somewhere because that is where their plane landed,” he told The Brussels Times.

Checking if people have actually been in a red zone, however, is not possible. Travellers will be asked to fill out a form when they return to Belgium. “The government is counting on people’s sense of civic responsibility and common sense,” Gaspart added.

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People returning from a holiday in a red zone by car or train, however, cannot be checked at all and completely slip through the cracks.

“The travel ban and the required testing and quarantine count for all travellers returning from a red zone, but it is true that it is not as easy to control or check if people travel by car or train,” Gaspart said. “Here, too, we are counting on people’s sense of citizenship,” he added.

Testing and self-quarantine are mandatory when you have been in a red zone, and it is the country regions who will follow that up. Last week, Flanders already communicated that ignoring mandatory quarantine could be punishable by fines up to €4,000, and even a prison sentence.

Brussels and Wallonia announced that they will also quarantine returning travellers, but have yet to communicate how.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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