Belgium can demand extra Covid test from travellers from Portugal, says Reynders
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Belgium can demand extra Covid test from travellers from Portugal, says Reynders

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Belgium is allowed to implement stricter measures for tourists returning from Portugal by requiring an extra Covid-19 test, but a quarantine or travel ban would go “too far,” according to European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders.

Asking travellers returning from areas with a high circulation of the Delta variant of the coronavirus like Portugal to present a negative Covid-19 test, as Belgian Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke proposed last week, is not a problem, Reynders explained on Flemish radio.

“We are trying to coordinate rules on a European level, meaning that we want exactly the same rules in all European countries,” he said.

However, while the Digital Covid Certificate is a binding measure for all Member States, the measure for travel restrictions within the EU is a recommendation, approved by all 27 countries.

“We said that it was possible to impose stricter rules for areas with a negative evolution of the virus, for example with the Delta variant, but only with the coordination of all EU Member States,” Reynders said.

He added that the extra rules cannot be stricter than absolutely necessary: “A test, for example, is okay. But not a quarantine, or a travel ban.”

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However, Germany decided to impose a mandatory two-week quarantine on everyone entering the country from Portugal last week, and a few other countries in central Europe are taking similar measures.

“We are trying to say that coordination is necessary,” Reynders said, adding that a Member State has to send information about the introduction of a new measure to the European Commission at least 48 hours before it goes into force.

“That way, we get coordinated measures, but we can also see that the measures do not go too far,” he added, referring to Belgium’s decision to implement an all-out ban on non-essential travel to and from the country earlier this year.

“It took two months before it was possible to go to another solution of quarantine and testing,” Reynders said.

He added that Vandenbroucke’s proposal of requiring an extra test after return to Belgium “might be possible, but it cannot go so far as to impose a quarantine or travel ban as in Germany, and certainly not for fully vaccinated people.”

Currently, Vandenbroucke’s proposal is not being implemented in Belgium, as the different Regions said they wanted to stick to the coordinated European approach.

Vandenbroucke already made it clear that he was not happy with that decision, saying that it might be “pointless” if extra measures are not implemented soon.

“I think it would be good if people were to be tested at least once if they have not been vaccinated,” he said last week.

“If there is a political disagreement about that, then that is unfortunate, but I will continue to say that anyone who uses their common sense would be better off not going to Portugal if they have not been fully vaccinated.”