Expats disproportionally hit by Belgium’s Covid-19 testing policy, data shows
Share article:
Share article:

Expats disproportionally hit by Belgium’s Covid-19 testing policy, data shows

Credit: Belga

A sudden spike in infections in Brussels – which saw numbers almost double (+94%) in a week – may have been placed at the feet of travellers, but further information from Sciensano has shown that while they may be at the root of the numbers, it was almost impossible that they were not going to be.

In the recent figures in the capital, infections have been seen mostly “among young adults between 20 and 40 years old, and are concentrated in municipalities such as Brussels-City, Ixelles and Etterbeek,” said virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht.

These areas are – as Van Gucht puts it – “areas with a very international population and many expats.” Importantly, however, they are also areas “where many people have returned from a trip, which partly explains the sudden increase in infections,” and under the current rules, the majority of those who return from abroad must undergo a test.

THE RULES: As of 31 December, Belgium has required a mandatory quarantine after a stay of more than 48 hours in a red zone. This means that everyone (residents and non-residents) who returns to Belgium after a stay of at least 48 hours in a red zone will have to go into quarantine. A PCR test is required upon return on day 1 and day 7 of quarantine, and the quarantine can only be ended if the PCR test on day 7 shows a negative result.

During the second week of the Christmas holiday, about 80,000 returning travellers filled out a Passenger Locator Form (PLF), of which 3.8% tested positive for Covid-19, or about 3,000 people, according to Van Gucht.

Additionally, between 1 January and 10 January, 41,800 Passenger Locator Forms (PLF) were filled out in the Brussels-Capital Region, which is 70% of all the forms in the country over this period, according to figures by the Common Community Commission (COCOM).

Related News


According to the COCOM, the high number of PLFs can be explained by the “international character of the Brussels population.” As a result of the many PLFs, the number of tests carried out increased as well, from an average of 2,100 tests per day to an average of 5,000 tests per day – naturally resulting in more detected infections.

These figures – which saw an unusually high week of testing due to all the returnees – were then compared to the previous week, one which was particularly slow due to the festive period.

Additionally, as a large number of travellers – mainly those travelling by car – did not fill out the form and/or were not tested, the number is likely higher, with experts estimating that as many as 5,000 people returned to Belgium while carrying the virus in the past weeks.

Maïthé Chini & Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Will Brussels bounce back?
The lockdowns have tested the city and forced it to confront key questions about its future. Derek Blyth looks back at an extraordinary moment in our ...
Huge cannabis farm discovered inside closed down Chinese restaurant near Charleroi
A cannabis plantation with several hundred mature plants was dismantled on Friday evening in a former Chinese restaurant on Chaussée de Bruxelles ...
Citizen founded wind turbine project launched in Liège region
A citizen founded wind turbine project was inaugurated in the Liège Region on Saturday by Walloon Energy Minister Philippe Henry (Ecolo) together ...
Belgium to invest in sustainable heating in 2022
The federal government will set aside about one million euros in its 2022 budget for a social tariff for sustainable heating, Federal Energy Minister ...
Anti-vaxxers demonstrate against Covid Safe Ticket in Brussels
Hundreds of supporters of the anti-vaxx movement gathered on Saturday outside the headquarters of the Pfizer pharmaceutical company to protest ...
Belgium’s investment funds total 260 billion euros in assets
Belgium’s funds industry grew by 5.3% (13 billion euros) in the second quarter of this year, bringing investment funds available to the public to ...
Brussels to Luxembourg by train in two hours soon possible
The fastest train ride between Brussels and Luxembourg currently takes almost three hours, but that could be slashed to about two hours thanks to the ...
Daily Covid infections up by almost 30% in Belgium
Between 6 and 12 October, an average of 2,438 people were infected with the Covid-19 virus every day, according to figures from the Sciensano public ...
Over 80,000 companies in Belgium non-compliant with anti-money laundering meassures
Over 80,000 companies and non-profits in Belgium are still not compliant with the Ultimate Business Owner (UBO) register, which is required of them ...
Increase in tax exemption for donations in Belgium fails to meet expectations
The increase from 45% to 60% in the tax exemption for donations, decided by the former federal government in June 2020, has cost Belgium more than ...
Sex workers in Belgium to get more social rights protection
The social rights of sex workers will soon be better protected in Belgium, Belga News Agency reports. The Council of Ministers has approved a draft ...
Belgian firms sent almost 266 billion euros to tax havens last year
Hundreds of Belgian firms sent close to 266 billion euros to tax havens last year, De Tijd reported on Saturday. Any Belgian individual or firm ...