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Brussels and Wallonia will quarantine high-risk returnees

Brussels and Wallonia will put travellers returning from areas with new flare-ups of the coronavirus on a mandatory quarantine.

Health authorities in Brussels said Wednesday that they would follow advice issued by the Risk Management Group (RMG) on Monday to quarantine and test high-risk returnees, mimicking a move by Flanders.

Walloon Minister-President Elio di Rupo had on Tuesday also said that it was “a given” that high-risk returnees would be expected to quarantine at home.

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Countrywide, there is no legal framework which enables authorities to enforce quarantine, as the RMG remains an advisory body to the country’s governments.

Belgium’s regional health authorities are set to meet with federal officials on Wednesday to seek a way forward for implementing the advisory body’s guidelines.

Announcing the Flemish approach, the Dutch-speaking region’s health minister, Wouter Beke, had said that he counted on “everyone’s civility” to respect the post-travel, two-week quarantine.

“We will see how we can make quarantine mandatory as soon as possible,” Beke’s spokesperson,  Steffen Van Roosbroeck, said, adding that other regions were also working out an approach.

Travellers who have been to high-risk areas are currently expected to get a doctor’s appointment and request to be tested for upon their return to Belgium.

In Wallonia, Di Rupo said that he expected that the length and the potentially binding nature of the measure be “identical” in all three regions of Belgium.

At a regional level, officials have the competency to enforce a restrictive measure such as a mandatory quarantine, according to a regional health official.

“Because of our authority as a health inspectorate, we can enforce the quarantine on the basis of our legal framework for infectious persons,” Inge Neven, coordinator for Brussels’ Health Inspectorate told Bruzz.

The framework could open the door to coercive measures to ensure the quarantine is respected, such as fines.

“Whether we will actually resort to that will be discussed at a federal level,” Neven said, adding: “Our intention is not to go through with this unilaterally.”

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times