First flights take off as international borders open


Summer holidaymakers rejoice: Many European countries have opened their borders to international travel

Check restrictions carefully

Belgium opened its international borders yesterday as the next step in the coronavirus exit strategy. Several other European countries have also opened their borders, though most travel is restricted to people coming from the Schengen area or EU countries.

Belgian residents can travel freely to all neighbouring countries as well as Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Poland and Sweden. For other countries, some restrictions apply.

Portugal, for instance, is open to air traffic but only accessible by car or any other ground transport from 1 July. The UK, Iceland and Estonia are allowing people in but ask that new arrivals remain in quarantine for two weeks – so a holiday in any of these countries is out of the question for now.

The Czech Republic is giving travellers from Belgium a choice between a two-week quarantine or providing proof of a negative Covid-19 test. Denmark, Finland and Ireland, meanwhile, are completely closed to travellers from Belgium.

Destination: Spain

One of the most popular summer holiday destinations, Spain, will open its borders on 21 June. While there are no restrictions to travelling to the mainland, the Canary Islands are requiring  proof of a negative test. Passengers who don’t have one will be tested upon arrival.

Anyone wanting to travel to another country can check the Foreign Affairs website, which is in multiple languages, for the latest updates.

Brussels Airport was ready yesterday with the first passenger flights taking off in some three months’ time. Only 60 flights were scheduled to leave from the airport in Zaventem, which made for a calm start for summer holiday travel.

A special entryway has been erected at the airport, where passengers are required to disinfect their hands and where their temperatures are taken. Passengers with a fever will not be allowed to fly.

Arriving travellers demonstrating a fever will be asked to quarantine for two weeks, and their names will be provided to contact tracers. Passengers are also asked to wear facemasks and arrive 2.5 hours ahead of their flight. All other airports in Belgium are also open, with few problems as their first flights took off.

In Belgium, meanwhile, most businesses are open, with social distancing the rule. Saunas, swimming pools, cinemas, concert halls, sports stadiums and amusement parks will be allowed to open on 1 July.

The number of new infections and hospital admissions in the country continue to fall: There are currently fewer than 400 people in hospital with the coronavirus, with 84 of them in intensive care. To date, 9,661 people in Belgium have died due to complications caused by Covid-19.

Photos, from top: ©Bruno Fahy/BELGA, DennisVDW/iStock/Getty Images Plus