Belgium has tightened its measures to restrict the spread of the coronavirus by requiring all people who have travelled abroad to undergo a COVID-19 test.
The country of 11 million people has suffered one of Europe’s highest death rates per capita from the pandemic, but currently has it under far tighter control than neighbours such as Germany and the Netherlands, both of which are in full lockdowns.
Belgian virologists have said the country faces a repeat of its experience of last February, when thousands of Belgians returned from ski resorts, many bringing the virus home with them.
The country, home to EU institutions and NATO, had required foreign visitors arriving from a “red zone” from December 25 to undergo tests. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said that as of Thursday that would apply to Belgian nationals, too.
With few exceptions, such as southern Ireland, Corsica and parts of Greece and Norway, all regions of Europe are on their highest alert levels.
Those staying at least 48 hours abroad will have to take COVID-19 tests on their first and seventh days back in Belgium and only come out of quarantine if their day seven test is negative.
Belgium’s average number of cases per day, which peaked at 22 000 in late October, was 1,801 on Wednesday, a 29% drop from a week earlier. Hospital admissions and fatalities are also declining.