Orange travel zones 'absolutely must exist', says Belgian PM

Orange travel zones 'absolutely must exist', says Belgian PM
Credit: Belga

Despite the confusion and uncertainty Belgium's list of orange travel zone has caused since it was created, the orange option "absolutely must exist," according to Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès.

The nuance that the orange travel zones bring is very important, Wilmès clarified during a press conference on Wednesday.

"The concept of the orange zones absolutely must exist. It is not all or nothing. It is not 'very dangerous' or 'not dangerous at all', and that's why we have to keep the orange zone," she said, adding that dealing with the in-between situations is also necessary.

Since Belgium introduced the colour-coded traffic light system for travellers last week, both the rules and the countries' colours have changed several times, leading to confusion for travellers, businesses and doctors.

On Monday, travellers returning from an orange zone were recommended to quarantine and get tested. By Tuesday, only "increased vigilance" was necessary, and any mention of quarantine was gone.

Then, by Tuesday afternoon, the measures had changed again, and returning travellers are now asked - not recommended - to quarantine and get tested.

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Domus Medica, the Flemish association of general practitioners, denounced the lack of clarity, saying that “general practitioners cannot continue to work like this" and asking if someone would "finally take the helm and try to guide us through the second wave?”

Flemish employers organisation VOKA also called for the system to be abolished, saying that the system only created uncertainty for employers and that was "incomprehensible."

However, the system is here to stay, Wilmès said on Wednesday. "If you come back from an orange zone, or if you have been at a superspreader event abroad, for example, we are asking you to be super vigilant, and to consult your doctor. They will test you and decide if you need to go into quarantine or not," she added.

Quarantining when returning from an orange zone is "advised," but not an obligation. "We are counting on the people here," she added.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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