Belgium will ban entry to non-EU travelers from Britain in order to limit the spread of a COVID-19 variant that has forced London to delay the lifting of its pandemic curbs.
Britain is on a list of 27 nations that will also face the order which will take effect by June 27 at the latest, Jan Eyckmans, the spokesman for Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke, told AFP on Saturday.
Belgium is concerned about the Delta variant, which first emerged in India, that has caused a surge in COVID cases in Britain, and forced the UK government to jettison plans to ease curbs from June 21.
With Belgium’s restrictions, which already apply to South Africa, India and Brazil, only EU citizens or residents of Belgium will be able to enter the country.
Those travelers will still have to meet tight quarantine rules as well as take COVID tests before being free to move in Europe.
The only exceptions for British or other non-EU travelers coming from a banned country will be diplomats on essential work and transport personnel, the government said.
So far in Belgium, the Delta variant accounts for 6.1 percent of infections, according to the most recent official data, but other research indicates the actual rate is higher.
Eyckmans said the government did not want to jeopardize the massive effort made by the Belgians just when the country’s vaccination rate had become the fastest in the EU.
“Britain is five weeks ahead of us in their vaccination drive and they had to postpone their plans to lift restrictions,” Eyckmans said.
“But this is a temporary situation that will be re-evaluated regularly,” he added.
The ban would tighten the current situation in which British travelers have to show proof of the essential nature of their trip when making a visit from Britain.
The decision was taken at a meeting on Friday of Belgian government’s COVID committee that sets the rules for fighting the spread of COVID-19 and will be published in the official journal in the coming days.
Of the 27 banned countries, Britain and Georgia are the only Europeans on the Belgium’s list.
The other countries are Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jordan, Qatar, Nepal, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile, Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia, Bangladesh, Uganda, Argentina, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, Suriname, Peru and Pakistan.