Travellers arriving in Brussels Airport this weekend have raised their concerns over the potential health risk of massive queues and crowds throughout the airport's various checks.
After long lines formed on Sunday evening while passenger locator forms were checked, photographs and videos showing hundreds of people in close proximity to each other in the Airport began to circulate on social media, alongside exasperated first hand reports.
One passenger, who arrived at the airport around 7:00 PM, told The Brussels Times that while the airport was initially fine, the situation quickly deteriorated.
"It was only when making our way to the main escalators to the baggage hall where we were met with a huge sea of people, most confused as to what was going on," she explained. "From the back it was impossible to see what was happening further forward, but two police guards ran through the crowd to try and support the efforts at the front, which we later learned were to control the flow of people moving into the next area to check their documentation," she added.
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"The long line was caused by the federal police's checks on travellers' Passenger Locator Forms (PLF) in the airport," a Brussels Airport spokesperson explained.
"It concerned a peak moment that only lasted for about an hour, after which it was calmer again," she said, adding that the airport urges everyone to always wear a face mask and respect the social distance.
The arrivals, however, were not the only part drawing criticism, with a second passenger calling the process for getting a coronavirus test "a shambles."
"The queues are humongous, and the pre-booking system has been abandoned, so you wait in a very long queue, even with a booking for a specific time," the passenger who arrived at the Airport on Sunday afternoon told The Brussels Times.
"The problem is, that the time spent in the queue will for many travellers be the most risky part of the journey in terms of exposure to the virus," he added.
The tests are free for passengers returning from a red zone who have Belgian insurance. Those who do not have Belgian insurance will be charged €46.81, and results will be available after 48 to 72 hours.
- Nearly 40,000 travellers returned from red zones this weekend
- Belgian test strategy for returnees hits hiccups
Nearly 40,000 people returned from abroad this weekend, according to the office of Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke, confirming information from VRT NWS. The vast majority of them came from a red zone.
On Saturday, 20,389 Passenger Locator Forms were filled out. This is the document that arriving travellers must fill out when they have been abroad for more than 48 hours. Of these, 17,701 were returning from a red zone.
On Sunday, 22,315 other forms were registered, of which 19,937 were for red zone returns.
“We are satisfied with these figures,” commented France Dammel, spokesperson for Minister Vandenbroucke. “At the airport, it is difficult to escape the PLF, while at the Midi train station in Brussels, there were many checks on Saturday. Anyone who was not in order was fined and had to fill in the form on the spot”.
Since midnight on Wednesday night, people returning to Belgium after having spent more than 48 hours abroad must quarantine. Read more about the new measures here.
Jules Johnston & Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times