Belgium will ban non-essential trips in and out of the country from Wednesday in a bid to curb the spread of highly contagious coronavirus variants, prime minister Alexander De Croo said.
The prohibition will run to 1 March and apply to land, sea and air travel but will not affect cross-border workers or those with overriding health or family reasons.
“We are not going to build a wall around Belgium. We can go to other countries but only for essential reasons,” De Croo told a media conference on Friday.
The announcement comes a day after a European Union summit by videoconference during which leaders decided against barring travel across the EU’s internal borders.
They instead “strongly discouraged” non-essential intra-EU trips, and warned they might toughen that line in days ahead if the worrying virus variants took hold.
The EU wants to avoid a repeat of the height of the pandemic’s first wave in March last year when several member states panicked and closed off national borders unilaterally, triggering travel and economic chaos.
Travel into the EU is already severely restricted.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has warned there is a “very high” probability of the more contagious variants spreading in the bloc.
These mutations – which emerged in Britain, South Africa and Brazil – have already prompted bans or restrictions on travellers from those countries.