Overview of the non-essential travel ban in Belgium

Some news from Belgium about the non-essential travel ban you may have read or heard about; our BLCC colleague Baukje Huisman has created an overview of several articles posted by The Brussels Times on this topic. We hope you find it useful!

In order to beat the coronavirus pandemic, Geert Molenberghs, a biostatistician at the Catholic University of Leuven and the University of Hasselt, advised on the 17th of January for a non-essential travel ban.

According to federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke, the non-essential travel ban had not been on the table. Instead, traveling was being discouraged by the government. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced on Friday the 22th of January that the Consultative Committee, which brings together Belgium’s federal and different Regional governments, agreed to implement the non-essential travel ban from the 27th of January till the 1st of March for journeys both to and from Belgium. The ban does not mean that the Belgian borders are closed.

However, a non-essential travel ban is easier said than done. A member of the European Union is not allowed to consider closing their borders on their own. The European Union has asked Belgium to explain its decision to close the borders for non-essential travel, as it goes beyond the current recommendations at an EU level. Several countries have already shown support to Belgium for preparing a non-essential travel ban.

What does the non-essential travel ban mean? It implies that people are banned from traveling for recreational or tourist reasons to or from Belgium. However, there are six exceptions by which traveling will be seen as essential. These exceptions are:

  • Business trips;
  • Cross-border commuters;
  • Humanitarian reasons, such as assistance for the elderly or continuation of medical treatment;
  • Traveling for studies;
  • Family reasons that are seen as compelling, this can include visits to a partner who lives across the border or funerals;
  • Various, this can contain moving or journeys within legal obligations (if they cannot be made digitally).

If you want to cross the border with Belgium (in or out), you have to fill in the declaration of honour that states that the reason for traveling falls under a category of journeys that are considered essential by the authorities and have it with you. The declaration should be connected to the Passenger Location Form (PLF), which should be filled in by people who have been abroad for at least 48 hours. The misuse of the declaration will result in a fine. Through this ban, the government wants to keep the coronavirus under control. Expected is that people with a contact-based profession can go back to work on the 13th of February if the number of infections remains low enough.

Click here to read more about the non-essential travel ban.