EU criticizes Belgium’s blanket Covid-19 travel ban, wants it replaced with ‘more targeted measures’

The European Commission has requested Belgium make changes to its ban on non-essential foreign travel in an attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19, saying the measures could result in “fragmentation” in the bloc.

“We were rather surprised by the Belgian authorities’ announcement,” a spokesman for the European Commission said on Monday, referencing Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo’s decision late last week to extend the country’s foreign travel ban by more than two weeks to April 18. 

“We have asked Belgium to replace that with more targeted measures,” the spokesman added, urging the national government to introduce strict testing and quarantine requirements instead of a ban.

On March 5, De Croo announced that the country would extend its non-essential foreign travel ban, first introduced in January. It prohibits the movement of people unless they have to travel for business or have compelling family reasons for doing so. It was originally supposed to be in place until March 1. 

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The Commission’s response has been issued as the bloc fears that member states taking their own approach could result in “fragmentation and disruption to free movement and supply chains,” and that the closure of borders will prevent the flow of goods, services and people in the single market.  

In February, the EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders gave Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary and Sweden 10 days to provide a justification for their border restrictions, with the bloc keen to see a more “coordinated approach” among member states. 

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