Almost 700 Dutch people visited Belgium before testing positive

Almost 700 Dutch people visited Belgium before testing positive
The shopping streets of Antwerp were crowded with Dutch tourists evading their country's lockdown. Photo by Helen Lyons/The Brussels Times.

A large number of Dutch nationals who tested positive for the coronavirus last week were in Belgium shortly before becoming infected.

At least 682 Dutch people who became infected with Covid-19 visited Belgium shortly before testing positive, according to figures from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) shared with The Brussels Times.

The RIVM stresses that these figures are “underestimates of the actual numbers and percentages,” as contact tracers in the Netherlands are not always able to source all high-risk contacts due to the high number of infections in the country. This means that even more people travelled to Belgium shortly before testing positive.

The Dutch figures indicate that of those who tested positive last week, at least 6% had recently been abroad. The highest number of infected people recently returned from Austria (almost 1,000) after the winter ski season.

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Despite the strict entry regulations imposed by Austria on travellers – Dutch residents who had not yet received a booster shot had to spend at least five days in quarantine – a large number of Dutch nationals still travelled to Austria. As a result, 15.8% of all infections in Austria were traced to another country between 27 December and 3 January.

Similarly in France, another popular winter sports destination, 740 people indicated having travelled there before contracting the virus.

Third in line was Belgium, which saw a massive influx of Dutch visitors visit its cities – especially those closer to the borders – following the announcement of a lockdown in the Netherlands just before Christmas. The borders between the two countries remained open, allowing people to dine and shop in Belgium instead.

The Dutch Outbreak Management Team (OMT) also noted “a large increase in reports of positively tested persons who recently travelled from abroad to the Netherlands”; it advised travellers returning to the Netherlands to take a self-test upon arrival and repeat it after five days.

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