Belgium is banning residents from taking vacations abroad until March to limit the spread of more infectious coronavirus variants and avoid a deadly third wave of COVID-19 cases.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told a news conference on Friday the government had decided to prohibit travel into or out of Belgium for recreation or tourism from Jan 27 to March 1.
The country wants to avoid a repeat of last winter when Belgians went on Alpine ski holidays, bringing the virus back with them, or the Christmas-New Year period when 160,000 residents ignored government advice and took trips abroad.
"When people travel, the virus travels with them and we also have seen, from sampling of tests, that people who have travelled show more cases of the variants than those that have not," De Croo said.
People can still cross borders for essential trips, such as for work or for medical treatment.
Belgium, the prime minister said, had one of the lowest rates of infection in Europe, but the danger had not gone away and measures had to be adjusted to avoid a third wave.