How travel will work after Belgium lifts its non-essential travel ban
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How travel will work after Belgium lifts its non-essential travel ban

Credit: Belga

As expected, the Consultative Committee announced on Wednesday that the ban on non-essential travel to and from Belgium will be lifted on Monday 19 April.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo made clear when announcing the lifting of the ban, however, that all travel for non-essential reasons remains strictly discouraged.

“I want to stress that this is really not the moment to start travelling. It is really not,” De Croo said.

Replacing the travel ban, there will be a strict follow-up system of testing and quarantining: those coming back from the red zone have to go into quarantine and have to be tested on the 1st and 7th day of their return.

People who choose to travel within the EU will have to fill in a Passenger Locator Form (PLF), similarly to before the ban was imposed.

“On the basis of these PLFs, the police will check who fails to submit to testing on return. Those who do not comply with the testing rules risk a coronavirus fine of €250,” De Croo said. 

This system will remain in place until Belgium can switch to using the EU’s Digital Green Certificate, commonly known as a “vaccination passport,” he added.

What is a (dark) red zone again? 

The colour of a zone per country is defined by the coronavirus maps of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which are published every Thursday and are based on data reported by the EU member states to The European Surveillance System.

The map supports the Council Recommendation’s coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which was adopted by the EU Member States on 13 October 2020 and amended on 28 January 2021.

The colours of the areas on the map are based on various coronavirus indication figures.

Dark red: If the incidence rate (the number of confirmed cases per 100,000 inhabitants over two weeks) is 500 or more;

Red: If this figure is between 50 and 150 and the test positivity rate of tests for Covid-19 infection is 4% or more, or if the incidence rate is more than 150 but less than 500.

On 14 April, France, Spain, Italy, Germany and many other neighbouring countries were all coloured red on the map.

Additionally, the rules imposed by the European Union for non-essential travel outside the EU will still remain in force.

The (near) future of travel 

Before the Consultative Committee announced the official lifting of the ban, travel agents in Brussels had already said this would not improve their industry’s prospects, as there was uncertainty about the quarantine and test system.

The announcement of the testing and quarantine system will likely deter people from travelling, as most regions around Belgium are considered red zones, and most do not currently allow for tourism travel or do so under similar strict conditions, such as a negative coronavirus test and/or quarantine.

On 17 March, the European Commissions’ proposal for this digital vaccination certificate, which it said could make travel without restrictions between countries in the EU possible again by this summer, was approved.

The draft proposal of the certificate will provide proof that a person has been vaccinated against Covid-19, has natural immunity from it, or has a negative test result.

Belgium’s non-essential travel ban, which applied to countries within the European Union and went beyond the European recommendations, first came into force on 27 January, following the emergence of the so-called British variant. 

Lauren Walker
The Brussels Times