Only 1 in 3 returning travellers complies with test obligation, says Corona Commissioner

Only 1 in 3 returning travellers complies with test obligation, says Corona Commissioner
Test centre at Brussels Airport. Credit: Belga

Only one in three travellers who have to be tested after returning to Belgium from a holiday actually do so, according to Corona Commissioner Pedro Facon.

The figures are based on the Passenger Locator Forms (PLF) that all returning travellers have to complete before entering Belgium, which is used to determine whether someone has to be tested.

"For the week up to 11 July, some 50,000 people returned and had to be tested. It now appears that only a third of them (34%) actually got tested," Facon said on Flemish radio on Tuesday.

At the next Consultative Committee, which will be held on Friday 16 July, the authorities will "have to dot the i's and cross the t's" when it comes to travel rules, according to him.

"It is clear that, throughout the entire chain, more follow-up and checks are needed," Facon added, pointing out that "sanctions may well follow."

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Currently, the obligation applies, among others, to travellers who have not yet been fully vaccinated and are coming from a red zone. The test has to take place on day 1 or 2 of return.

"I call on the population to follow that testing requirement," he said. "I want to point out that it really is a duty and a responsibility of every citizen. The controls on this will be tightened."

The rising coronavirus figures are worrying experts, as the number of new infections is doubling approximately every eight days at the moment, explained Facon.

"The big question is what that will mean in terms of the burden and pressure on the hospitals," he said. "The picture we see abroad is rather diffuse. In some countries, hospitalisations are already rising, others seem to be less affected."

He said that what he called "non-pharmaceutical interventions," such as face masks, keeping a social distance and meeting in smaller groups, will have to be maintained throughout the summer.

"The perception that we can throw all that out is wrong, and we need to emphasise that," Facon said. "We need to explain to people how they can protect themselves."

At the moment, about one million high-risk people (those over 65 years old, or with an underlying condition) are not yet fully vaccinated, but it is also important to vaccinate people who are less likely to get sick, such as teenagers, to reduce the circulation of the virus.

That is also why "we have to face the numbers" for youth camps, of which about half are reporting at least one confirmed Covid-19 case, according to Facon.

"We need to look at how we can better support preventive screening, without turning it into an obligation," he said.

Additionally, for upcoming mass events such as Pukkelpop, "rock-solid guarantees" that the Covid Safe Ticket cannot be tampered with are needed, he said, referring to a test event in the Netherlads, where a great deal of fraud was discovered.

Visitors who have not been (fully) vaccinated will also have to be tested every two days.

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