More masks, no large events: Flemish provinces consider stricter measures

More masks, no large events: Flemish provinces consider stricter measures
Credit: Belga

Ahead of the Consultative Committee on Wednesday, the governors of some Flemish provinces have already stated that they will take stricter measures than the federal ones if necessary.

In the provinces of West Flanders and Limburg, extra measures are being considered if those taken by the Consultative Committee are not thought strict enough to get the infection figures down, the governors announced.

"Since last weekend, we have been the province with the greatest rising figures. We also see a strong increase in hospitals," West Flemish provincial governor Carl Decaluwé told the Belga News Agency on Monday.

"We even have to start looking into transferring coronavirus patients to other provinces," he said. "I hope that the Consultative Committee will intervene substantially. If the measures do not go far enough, I will have to take stricter measures for West Flanders."

Specifically, the cancellation of mass events and making face masks mandatory in all indoor areas are among the possibilities that Decaluwé is considering.

Christmas markets, however, should remain possible, provided that all necessary measures are taken (such as the obligation to wear face masks and/or a limited number of visitors). "We have to avoid the big masses as we saw at the Ghent Light Festival."

Additionally, he also called for better enforcement of existing measures. "We cannot keep taking measures that are then not checked or applied. If we apply stricter measures, we go for clear and transparent measures. It must be clear for everyone."

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In the meantime, Antwerp governor Cathy Berx said on local radio on Monday that the provincial crisis cell is meeting tomorrow as the province considering introducing the obligation to wear masks for children in the 3rd and 4th grade (from 9-10 years old).

"In some municipalities in the Antwerp province, the number of infections has quadrupled in a fortnight, especially in the Kempen municipalities," she said.

Currently, face masks are only compulsory for children in the 5th and 6th grades (from 11-12 years old) in schools if they cannot keep a safe distance.

"I read the recommendations of Unicef and the World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday. These do not require face masks under the age of 5. But for children aged between 5 and 11, masks are recommended in case of very high virus circulation," Berx said.

"In Italy, France and Spain, children are even wearing a mask from the first year of school, and they are being very creative about it," she added. "The idea is definitely to keep the children in school but to avoid infections."

Berx also stressed the importance of restricting social contacts, regardless of what the Consultative Committee decides. "Mandatory teleworking will be on the table, and it is not the time to organise company parties either."

A provincial crisis meeting will take place tomorrow and it is possible that stricter measures for the province of Antwerp will be announced afterwards, she said.

The Consultative Committee, which will discuss possible stricter measures for the entire country, will meet on Wednesday from 2:30 PM. As usual, a press conference to announce the latest changes will take place afterwards, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed to The Brussels Times.

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