Only four in ten of all tourists returning from holiday in one of the designated red zones to Brussels turns up for a test for Covid-19, according to official figures.
The red zones are areas in Europe – in some cases entire countries – where the level of infections is considered dangerously high. Anyone who has travelled to one of the red zones is required to self-isolate on their return, and undergo a test for Covid-19.
But according to figures from the joint community commission – which brings together the Flemish and the French-speaking communities in Belgium – only four in ten people in Brussels follow the rules. In Wallonia and in Flanders the figure is slightly better at 60%.
Anyone travelling abroad for more than 48 hours is required to fill out a Passenger Location Form (PLF) online before returning. Those who are coming back from a red zone will then be contacted and given a QR code to allow them to be tested.
Last week Karine Moykens, chair of the Inter-Federal Testing and Tracing Committee, promised “tough sanctions” for anyone failing to meet the testing requirements. However it has since become clear that the system meant to track PLFs is not able to keep up.
People who fail to turn up for a test as required are supposed to then receive a telephone call to follow up on their actions since returning. But the system is at present not able to move to that next step, and will not be functioning fully until 4 September – by which time most people will already have returned from holiday.
In addition, while tourists from Flanders and Wallonia appear slightly more conscientious that those from Brussels, the situation in those regions is no better.
In Flanders, the system of tracking PLFs is the same as elsewhere, and while six in ten do show up for testing, no contact has been made with the other 40%, who may or may not be self-isolating.
According to the most recent figures, an average of 1,200 Belgians return each days from a red zone, which includes large parts of Spain and France, parts of Bulgaria, all of Finland and Denmark and two cities in the UK. The current list of red zones is posted on the website of the foreign affairs ministry.