Belgium has put the Greater Metropolitan Area of Lisbon and Central Portugal back on its no-go travel ‘red list’, “strongly advising” against any visits.
Criticising the decision for doing ‘nothing to help control the pandemic’, the Ministry of foreign affairs has issued a statement, saying that it hopes “there can be agreement, at European level, for the definition of a set of common homogeneous criteria, applicable across the EU, for the classification of regions that may, at any given moment, be considered to be at greatest risk”.
This would do away with what otherwise has become a kind of patchwork of restrictive measures, brought in by different countries at different moments.
Belgium has had Lisbon on its red list before – but on the first occasion nationals were prohibited from visiting the capital full stop.
In June this changed, with Lisbon joining the rest of the country on Belgium’s ‘amber list’.
Now nationals are simply ‘strongly advised’ against making any trips to the capital and the central region, and face quarantine and testing on their return to Belgium if they don’t heed their government’s advice.
Quarantine and testing for nationals visiting other areas of Portugal is not mandatory, but it is ‘recommended’.
Up till now Belgium has been the only member state to categorically prohibit journeys of any kind to ‘areas of high risk’ within the EU.
Its change in policy suggests the country is now trying to adapt to Brussels’ call for a common approach with regard to the principle of free circulation.
Belgium’s battle with Covid-19 is nonetheless proving very complicated. The last week has seen an average of 1,374 cases per day (in other words, far higher than averages in Portugal) while the number of people requiring hospital treatment has increased every day for the last 18 days.
Belgium has also registered many more deaths than Portugal (last call 9,955 against Portugal’s 1,925) bearing in mind its population is only marginally larger than this country’s (11.5 million to Portugal’s 10.2 million).