Face masks should be phased out once vaccination campaign is done, experts say

Face masks should be phased out once vaccination campaign is done, experts say
Credit: Belga

Belgium should be able to start phasing out the obligation to wear a face mask once the country's vaccination campaign is completed, according to infectious diseases professor and member of the GEMS expert group Steven Callens.

As 70% of Belgium's entire population has already received its first shot, and children aged 12 to 15 are also being vaccinated, the use of face masks will soon decrease.

"I am hopeful that within a few weeks, when the last people have been vaccinated, there will be much less virus circulating," Callens told Het Laatste Nieuws.

"At that point, a compulsory face mask will no longer be necessary," he added. "People will be able to decide for themselves whether to put it on or not, depending on the situation."

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Prominent virologist Marc Van Ranst also confirmed to the Belga news agency that a phased abolition of the mandatory mask rule is more widely supported within the GEMS experts group.

Additionally, Erika Vlieghe, who heads the GEMS, also said that both the Risk Assessment Group (RAG) and the GEMS have put various scenarios on the table to move away from the obligation.

However, it is and remains a political decision in the end, stressed Van Ranst.

"Once everyone has had the chance to be fully vaccinated, we will enter a different phase," he said, adding that the mask could then be done away with in many places, such as on the train platforms outside.

In other places, such as on the bus or in schools, it is a little more difficult, which is why Van Ranst again underlined the importance of CO2 meters in every classroom.

"That is a relatively modest investment that will allow you to measure. And to measure is to know," he said.

"In any case, I am convinced that we will have a more normal school year, in which the face masks will be left out as much as possible," Van Ranst added.

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