Following over 65% of its European counterparts, which have all re-instated their pre-pandemic entry rules, Belgium is now the latest in the continent to remove all entry requirements and internal mask mandates. After two years of travel bans and social curbs, this Central European nation is finally moving forward and fully reopening for tourism.
Throughout the crisis, Belgium had imposed some of the strictest measures in Europe, including bans on non-European visitors, quarantine for high-risk arrivals, and complex testing regimes. By drastically changing its stance on Covid and lifting all mandates, it will send shock waves through parts of Europe that are proving harder to sway.
After all, Brussels, its capital, is also the capital of Europe.
Belgium Lifts All Covid Mandates Starting May 23
As reported by the Brussels Time, Belgium’s Consultative Committee has chosen to ‘deactivate’ the coronavirus barometer, a measuring method that had been used to assess the country’s epidemiological risks during the crisis. While the barometer was in place, the higher Covid levels were, the greater the number of restrictions travelers would face.
Now, it has been officially discontinued after Belgium’s leaders issued a joint press release on May 20 confirming the news, including Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Federal Healh Minister Frank Vandenbroucke. Starting May 23, Belgium will be the freest it’s been since before the virus emerged.
With the barometer gone, a two-year old ban on non-essential travel to Belgium from outside the European Union has been lifted. While the country had recently eased travel rules and started allowing vaccinated Americans, Canadians, and Brits to visit, it still barred a large majority of non-EU unvaccinated individuals from traveling for tourism purposes.
Now, travelers belonging to that category can again visit Belgium restriction-free, with no obligation other than presenting a valid passport and complying with other non-pandemic entry guidelines. On top of that, the requirement for unvaccinated visitors to get tested on days 1 and 7 has been lifted, alongside the 10-day post-arrival quarantine.
In sum, entry is possible for everyone, regardless of nationality or immunization:
- No vaccination certificates
- No proof of recovery
- No pre-departure testing
- No post-arrival testing
- No mandatory quarantine
As part of its wider relaxation of rules, Belgium is also removing the pandemic-era Passenger Locator Form (PLF), which travelers needed to present before boarding, and upon landing in the country, adding to the growing list of Covid documentation needed for travel. By abolishing the PLF, Belgium is subsequently reducing bureaucracy.
The new simplified travel rules still do not apply to travelers coming from countries with a ‘new variant of concern‘, as remarks Prime Minister De Croo himself. However, as readers can check for themselves on the Belgian Government’s Covid Webpage, there are currently no countries listed as having a variant of concern.
Could The U.S. Be Added To The List Of Variants Of Concern Soon?
The statement does leave room for future twists, as no country is immune to being added to Belgium’s red list, including the United States, where a new variant is spreading quickly. So far, neither the U.S. nor any other non-European state has been identified as a potential variant exporter.
This new variant – the so-called BA2.12.1 does not appear to be as disruptive as Omicron, though Belgian officials are keeping a close eye on pandemic developments and are prepared to act quickly if needed. For that reason, travelers are advised to check the Belgian Government’s official updates and travel guidance.
Masks Are Also Gone On Public Transport And Indoors
Besides the relaxation of entry rules, Belgian authorities have lifted the mandatory mask requirement nearly everywhere, except in facilities where individuals are most likely to benefit from mask usage, such as hospitals and pharmacies. Following an EU-wide directive, Brussels is scrapping masks in public transport and all other indoor venues.
Now, tourists are again free to stroll the picturesque canals of Bruges mask-free or hop on city buses in Brussels or Antwerp without the constant putting on and taking off a face mask. In dropping mask rules, Belgium aligns itself with France, Croatia, Greece and several other EU countries that have removed masks altogether.
Even though tourists have reasons to feel optimistic, seeing that Belgium is finally reopening for all, irrespective of vaccination status, and after two years of being off-limits for some, they should take these exciting developments with a pinch of salt. Unfortunately, a new virus is sweeping across Europe, and Belgium has historically been the first to respond.
Recently, the Monkeypox virus has reached the Old Continent’s shores, and several clusters have been identified in different European nations, including the United Kingdom and Spain. Easily transmitted during sex, the disease leads to body rashes, extreme fatigue, and other debilitating symptoms, which usually last for weeks before subsiding.
As there seems to be community transmission within Europe, Belgium has already imposed a three-week quarantine for symptomatic travelers, leading us to believe there may be a new bout of travel curbs coming soon as countries struggle to contain the threat. For more information on Monkeypox and prevention, travelers are advised to follow WHO guidance.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories