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All travellers returning to Belgium from red zones must quarantine
Belgium has announced a new requirement for anyone entering the country from a red zone to quarantine and take two coronavirus tests, seven days apart, from this Thursday (31 December).
The new measure, which applies regardless of citizenship or place of residence, follows an emergency meeting of the coronavirus consultative committee on Wednesday, bringing together representatives from the federal government and the regions.
The Belgian foreign ministry considers everywhere in the world to be a red zone, with the exception of Iceland, Japan, Corsica and some parts of Ireland, Norway and Greece, which are orange.
Belgium is expecting an influx of travellers returning to the country from abroad over the coming days, despite formal advice not to travel this Christmas.
"We want to be clear," said Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo. "This clarity translates into a firm and formal obligation to self-isolate after your holiday and to take a Covid test twice."
The quarantine rule comes after a more contagious variant of coronavirus was detected in the UK shortly before Christmas.
"We live in a situation which is evolving extremely quickly and we are confronted with recent developments," De Croo said.
"It worries us here in Belgium because our country still seems relatively spared, compared to the contamination rates in some neighbouring countries.
"We are not doing this to annoy people. We are doing it because there is a danger and we do not want people to import a new variant of the virus into Belgium."
Travellers returning to Belgium should take a coronavirus test on the day of arrival, and a second after seven days. Only if the result of the second test is negative can their quarantine end.
Federal health minister Frank Vandenbroucke said on Wednesday: "Here at home, the figures are going in the right direction thanks to the efforts of the vast majority of people. The gap between infection rates here and abroad are quite significant.
"People who went abroad already knew that there was a serious risk that they were going to have to quarantine. Until now, it depended on a risk assessment.
"A quarter of people recently returning from a red zone have been obliged to quarantine. We're going to shift that 100%. We believe that's necessary."
Vandenbroucke added that he hoped the tougher rules would "be dissuasive" for anyone considering a foreign holiday during the Carnival half-term break.