The Belgian government has placed Leicester on its “red zone” list, requiring all new arrivals who have recently visited the city to go into quarantine for two weeks.
The east Midlands city has joined a handful of others in Spain and Portugal – as well as Finland, Ireland and Malta and Norway – on a list of places the Belgian government has banned its citizens travelling to for non-essential purposes.
The Belgian foreign affairs department has said that quarantine is mandatory for anyone returning from these locations. The regularly updated advice is based on currently available information, according to the Belgian government’s website.
It also gives Belgian citizens the go-ahead to travel to other areas of the EU, the Schengen zone and other parts of the UK.
Leicester became the first city in England to have tighter restrictions reimposed on 30 June, after an increase in Covid-19 infections.
Earlier this week, businesses in the city complained of being “left in limbo” by the government and the local council, fearing that the lockdown could remain in force until mid-August.
On Tuesday, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, told the Commons that the seven-day infection rate had been reduced in the city from 135 to 117 per 100,000 since the lockdown was introduced. This was still almost eight times the rate of the the next highest city – Barnsley – at 17 cases per 100,000, according to NHS data.
Hancock has so far declined to set a target for lifting Leicester’s lockdown, telling MPs that a low rate of infection which was rising could be worse than a higher rate that was falling.
Peter Soulsby, the city’s mayor, has accused the health secretary of withholding vital data which could help reduce the spread of coronavirus through black, Asian and minority ethnic communities as well as workplaces.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said all councils in England now had the ability to access testing data, right down to an individual and postcode level.
“We continue to work closely with local authorities in Leicester and our focus is on further curbing the spread of the virus so these necessary restrictions can be removed as soon as possible,” they added.
The tightening of Belgium’s travel restrictions for people who have visited Leicester comes as the UK government attempts to ease international travel restrictions to boost the ailing airline industry.
Belgium was included on a list of more than 50 countries Westminster deemed safe enough for travel without coronavirus-related restrictions, unveiled on 3 July.