Belgium considering stricter measures for travellers returning from Portugal
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Belgium considering stricter measures for travellers returning from Portugal

The Algarve in Portugal. Credit: Belga

The government will be discussing whether stricter measures need to be imposed on travellers coming from Portugal, said Home Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden.

Whoever is looking to come to Belgium from Portugal would have to undergo mandatory testing, and un-vaccinated people would have to spend ten days in quarantine.

“The decision is not yet final, but of course we want to keep the delta variant out of Belgium,” Verlinden said.

“That is why we are in consultation with the core of the government and the federal states to see what additional measures we can impose on people returning from Portugal,” she added.

As of Thursday, the EU’s Digital Covid Certificate system has been officially implemented, which means that restrictions on travel can be lifted for travel within the EU for people who can prove a negative test result, a certificate of full vaccination or a recovery certificate after infection.

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At the moment, Portugal is coloured orange on the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)’s travel map, which means that with a Covid certificate, you can return without having to get tested and you do not have to go into quarantine.

However, the number of daily new coronavirus cases in the country, which was the first in the European Union to announce the Delta variant was dominant on its territory, increased to the highest level since February, and most of the reported cases are attributed to the Delta strain.

Portugal was previously criticised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel for allowing travellers from the United Kingdom, where the Delta variant is accounting for over 90% of the cases. Thousands of Brits visited tourist hotspots in the country after the British government briefly eased travel restrictions.

Verlinden has said this could result in Belgium seeing Portugal as a red zone, meaning additional testing will be required on day 1 or day 7.

EU opens up for travel

As of Thursday, the system to make travel within the EU easier during the pandemic has officially been put in place, and more than 200 million corona certificates have already been issued throughout the bloc, the European Commission announced. 

“In March, we promised to have an EU-wide system to facilitate free and safe travel within the EU by the summer holidays. Now we can confirm that the EU Digital COVID Certificate system is up and running,” a statement read.

Belgium made its travel certificate, which connects to the EU’s gateway system, two weeks ago, and thousands of Belgian residents had already applied for a certificate ahead of the EU-wide system coming into force.

Under the new rules, member states can not impose additional travel restrictions on certificate holders. However, an “emergency brake” mechanism can be implemented for a high-risk area (where more infectious new coronavirus variants are circulating).

This would require Belgian residents returning from these places to quarantine for ten days, with a PCR test on day 1 and 7.