'Shifts the problem': banning travel to Spain is not smart, says Van Gucht

'Shifts the problem': banning travel to Spain is not smart, says Van Gucht
Lloret de Mar. Credit: Pikrepo

Imposing a travel ban for Spain is "not a good idea" now that coronavirus infections are rising in the country, as it would only shift the problem, according to virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht.

On Monday morning, biostatistician Geert Molenberghs stated a ban on travelling to Spain could help Belgium keep its epidemiological situation under control, but Van Gucht is not a fan of the idea.

"The risk of infection does not necessarily have anything to do with the country you are visiting, whether it is Spain, France or any other," he told Het Laatste Nieuws, adding that a red colour is not in itself more dangerous than a green colour.

As of Monday, the whole of Spain turned red in Belgium's latest update of the colour codes, based on the travel map by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

"What matters is the type of trip, and we know that there are a lot of party holidays in Spain," Van Gucht added. "Parties take place there that we - for justifiable reasons - do not yet allow."

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He stressed that a ban on travelling to Spain, imposed by the Belgian federal government, would only shift the problem, not solve it.

"If Belgians are no longer allowed to party in Spain, they will go and party in Bulgaria, or somewhere else. You just shift the problem to another country, and a few weeks later you have the same situation."

At the same time, such a ban would "punish" holidaymakers who do abide by the rules while on vacation, the same way they do while in Belgium.

"Therefore, it is much better to tighten up the controls and carry them out consistently," Van Gucht said.

Additionally, tightening the coronavirus fighting measures in Belgium itself is not necessary at the moment, he said ahead of the Consultative Committee taking place on Monday afternoon.

Van Gucht said that he suspects that the authorities will stick to their proposed "summer plan," of which the next stage is expected to take effect at the end of July.

"That will be step three of the plan," he said. "All in all, a lot of measures are still in place and I think this is a good thing. To my mind, restricting further is not really necessary."

The Consultative Committee met on Monday at 2:00 PM to evaluate the current situation, clarify the travel regulations and discuss the use of the Covid Safe Ticket for smaller events.

The latest decisions will be announced by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo during a press conference, which will start at 5:00 PM today, according to his cabinet.

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