Coronavirus in Kortrijk, Belgium
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Oct 06, 2020 Update
We Asked: What is currently happening with regard to the Coronavirus outbreak in your area? Please provide as much detail as possible. He replied...
Current restrictions in Belgium are relatively minimal as it relates to engagements within the borders. The most recent guidelines (which we expect to change by end of week) involve limiting personal bubbles to having close contact with no more than 5 people per week. Each person within the household can engage with their own 5 people. There is no monitoring of the adherence to this guideline so it's trust based.
Travel is more restricted with mandatory 7 day quarantine upon return from a Red zone including the requirement for a negative corona test result taken on day 5 following the return. A passenger locator form is required for anyone returning from a red zone which includes personal contact info that is leveraged to send reminders about testing. Travel back from an orange or green zone have recommendations attached to them but there are no hard requirements regarding quarantine or testing. Many counties and provinces in Spain and France are currently Red zone with more of a general Orange zone associated with most other Western European Countries. Nearly 100% of travel outside the EU zone is considered Red.
Schools are open for all grades, we haven't seen a surge of cases associated with schools but rather from returning groups of folks in the 17-25yo range.
Current daily positive case counts are still increasing across all age groups but primarily among the young adults (18-25 yo). We are seeing daily case volumes starting to exceed peak case counts back in March but seem to have much more confidence that current testing capacity is resulting in a better representation of true cases than back in March.
How People are Coping
We Asked: How are people handling the situation in your area? He replied...
Most people are still cautious, wearing masks in public but for all but the highest risk groups (essentially the elderly and severely ill with potential co-morbidities) there is minimal concern. Bars are open with limited capacity, schools and stores are open. I have seen most impact to smaller restaurants and specialty stores (think butcher, bakery) as it relates to permanent closures.
Air travel is significantly reduced which makes it much more enjoyable actually, the lines are shorter and there are few delays. Public transportation is getting more crowded but operators are responding by increasing capacity enabling passengers to maintain social distance.
Public events such as weddings, funerals, concerts can happen but with various limitations around capacity or the serving of alcohol beyond certain time slots.
We Asked: Describe how the government of the country about which you are reporting is handling this situation. He replied...
There is a daily briefing by the Corona task force but with the recent change in government I do expect that this will change. A dedicated minister focused on the management of the coronavirus response will be added, there are rumors this will not be a politician but rather a medical professional or scientist of some kind. This leads me to believe stricter restrictions are coming our way.
Supplies and Shortages
We Asked: Is there a shortage of supplies in your location? He replied...
Travel Restrictions and Related COVID-19 Testing
We Asked: Are non-citizens allowed to travel to your country? Describe travel restrictions, COVID-19 testing requirements and any details about traveling into your country. He replied...
Travel was already discussed in a prior answer but non-essential non-citizen travel is difficult if not impossible via the airlines. Traveling across Europe's boarders is like traveling across state lines in the US so there is no desire/infrastructure to limit that in any way. We have gone grocery shopping in France and my family members have traveled to Luxembourg in recent weeks as well. As long as you do not stay in excess of 48h abroad (even in a red zone) you are not subject to quarantine requirements.
Health Insurance Requirements
We Asked: Is health insurance required when traveling into the country? Is it required when applying for residency? Is this a new requirement since COVID-19? Describe the health insurance requirement. He replied...
I am not sure about this but the passenger locator form does not have any required fields regarding insurance. Our COVID tests were free to us as legal travelers with proper VISA/Citizenship so YMMV.
We Asked: How easy or difficult is it to get a COVID-19 test locally? Where can you get tested? Do you need to have symptoms or a prescription from a doctor? Describe the process. He replied...
Extremely easy to get a local COVID test (let's say 3-4 hours at a local doctor's office) with results provided within 24h. No symptoms are required but a test 'just in case' will be charged to the patient. Tests associated with returning from a Red Zone are paid through our health care system.
Public Healthcare & Public Hospitals
We Asked: Are you enrolled in the public healthcare system where you live? Do you feel that the public hospitals are handling or preparing for the Coronavirus outbreak effectively? He replied...
Not yet enrolled in public healthcare but I will be as I was waiting on my official residency being reflected. Hospitals are getting fuller as time goes on with shared capacity being leveraged. There is a general confidence that our medical staff and infrastructure is ready for a further surge of cases and hospitalizations.
Private Health Insurance & Private Hospitals
We Asked: Do you have private health insurance? If you have private insurance, does this give you access to private hospitals? Are private hospitals or clinics better prepared, less prepared, or the same? Please explain. He replied...
I do not have or intend to have private health insurance but I am a citizen. My wife has a private policy that was required as part of the Visa application process, this policy runs through early 2021. After that we intend to determine cost/benefit of the public vs private options and choose accordingly.
Hospital of Choice for Coronavirus Treatment
We Asked: Would you choose a public or private hospital if you needed treatment for Coronavirus? Why? If there is a specific hospital that you would go to in the event of severe illness? Which hospital and why? He replied...
I would choose a public hospital as they are well equipped, there isn't a broad private hospital network within the country.
Residency & Visa
We Asked: Are new residency applications being processed? Have there been any changes or extensions made in terms of residency and other visa renewals? He replied...
Limited VISA applications are being processed, I would keep an eye on the online resources available to you but our Citizen sponsored Visa was issued within 2 weeks once all required documentation (add another 4 weeks to gather those) was provided. Total cost including apostilles etc was roughly $300 USD as of August 2020.
We Asked: Are you considering returning to your home country due to the Coronavirus? Would this be a temporary move or a permanent repatriation? Please explain. He replied...
I was returning so it's different but previously I was living abroad for 9 years. People tend to think that their home country is better suited at handling these kinds of issues but my wife certainly didn't feel this way about the specific US state we lived in. Our plans have shifted from slow traveling through airports to slow traveling on land as we decided to purchase a car and road trip instead. Our trips to more exotic places have been postponed indefinitely but now that we are in Europe we can essentially move freely about the continent.
We Asked: Do you have any other thoughts you would like to share? He replied...
Expat Health Insurance in Belgium
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I have recently decided to take a multi-year sabbatical dedicated to slow travel throughout Europe using Belgium as our initial home base. My wonderful American wife is joining me on this adventure.