Belgium bans travel from India, Brazil, South Africa over Covid variants
Belgium has become the latest country to suspend travel to and from countries suffering the most brutal surges of infections of extra-contagious coronavirus variants. Australia has also announced a two-week ban on travel from India.
“Passenger travel by air, train, boat, and bus, including transit traffic, from India, Brazil and South Africa to Belgium will be banned,” Prime Minister Alexander de Croo announced in a statement.
“People with Belgian nationality and people who have their main residence in Belgium can return from India, Brazil, and South Africa,” he added. “They are strongly advised not to travel to these countries.”
Sammy Mahdi, Belgium’s minister for asylum and migration, expressed hope the measure would be short lived.
“There’s only one thing to do to move towards a normal life where everyone can travel freely, vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate,” he said.
European countries restrict travel
The announcement comes as India’s health system faces overwhelming levels of Covid infection. The official death toll for coronavirus patients neared 200,000, with 2,771 new deaths reported Tuesday. Experts fear the real figures may be far higher.
Last week, Belgium detected the Indian variant among some 20 students who had arrived from India via bus link from Roissy airport in the Paris region.
Variants from Brazil and South Africa respectively account for 4.9 percent and 3.7 percent of current infections in Belgium, health officials said Monday.
Other European countries have been introducing various restrictions on travel to or from countries fighting epidemic waves fuelled by more contagious variants of the coronavirus, including Spain, which said it would enforce quarantine on travellers from India.
Australia suspends flights, Fiji in lockdown
Australia also paused direct passenger flights from India until 15 May in a bid to prevent more virulent variants from entering its territory.
“It is a humanitarian crisis and one gripping the world,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who took the decision to suspend travel after a rise in cases among returning travellers in quarantine.
The move impacts passenger services to Sydney and repatriating flights from Darwin, but Morrison said the suspension was temporary to ensure the country could manage arrivals from pandemic hotspots.
“We don’t think the answer is to forsake those Australians in India and just shut them off,” he said, adding the suspension would allow quarantine facilities to better handle positive cases.
Detection of several cases of the Indian variant has also forced Fiji to put its capital Suva into lockdown after the Pacific island nation had avoided infections for a year.
“We still have time to stop it happening but a single misstep will bring about the same Covid tsunami that our friends in India, Brazil, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States are enduring,” permanent secretary for health and medical services James Fong said of the cases.
India, the world’s second most populous country with 1.3 billion people, has reported 17.64 million Covid-19 cases and 197,894 deaths, though experts believe the real toll is much higher.
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