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Belgium declares Malta off-limits due to surge in COVID-19 cases

The Belgian National Crisis Centre announced today that Belgian citizens are prohibited from travelling to Malta and parts of Spain due to an increase in coronavirus infections in both countries.

The announcement came during an update on the pandemic in the country. Belgium is one of the European countries currently experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases, as over 4,000 cases were diagnosed last week.

The travel ban is bound to have a huge impact on Malta due to the frequent travel between Brussels and Malta. The Shift has already received reactions on how this decision will affect people commuting between the two countries.

Virologist Steven Van Gucht said Antwerp continues to struggle with the largest number of cases in the country. Brussels, home to the headquarters of the EU, has the second largest number of COVID-19 cases in Belgium.

The Belgian government announced the adjustment in country colour codes for travel today on the Foreign Affairs website.  During Friday’s press conference, it was confirmed that Malta and certain regions of Spain would be placed on code red, which means travel is off-limits.

“Travel still carries a risk. In principle, choose green zones and stick to the rules,” Van Gucht said.

The increase in COVID-19 cases has caused Malta to be struck from the safe travel lists of numerous countries. The UK, a popular destination for Maltese tourists, has removed Malta from its quarantine-free green list. The UK government’s decision will come into effect tomorrow, 15 August.

To date, 11 countries have imposed restrictions on travellers returning from Malta. Other countries, including Italy and Sicily, are also imposing quarantines for those returning from Malta.

Belgian experts have warned that the country risks heading towards a second lockdown, should the number of cases continue increasing. Belgium was one of the countries suffering the largest number of infections when the first wave of COVID-19 struck earlier this year, suffering one of the highest mortality rates in the world.

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