Despite face masks still being mandatory on public transport, many passengers don’t bother, Bruzz reports. To illustrate the point, reporters counted 200 passengers on the route of tram 92 between Stefania and Schaerbeek station: only 93 were wearing a mask.
While the face mask mandate has been dropped by airlines such as TUI Belgium and Brussels Airlines, and masks are no longer required to enter shops and supermarkets, the measure for wearing a mask on public transport and platforms remains in place.
The next Consultative Committee had been scheduled to take place on 6 May, but the meeting was postponed to allow more time for infection rates to subside.
The meeting has now been scheduled for 20 May, when the remaining measures will be discussed and measures for masks on public transport will likely be lifted.
Yet it seems that many travellers have taken it upon themselves to decide when to wear a mask, with some even claiming to be unaware of current regulations: “I didn’t know we had to wear a mask,” one of them told Bruzz, despite the obligation being indicated on platforms and in trams, while also being announced regularly.
Other passengers said that “nobody is wearing masks anymore” and questioned the necessity of observing the requirement.
The Brussels public transport operator STIB claims that the majority of travellers still wear masks. They question the validity of such a small investigation and say that the results are distorted.
However, STIB spokesperson An Van Hamme acknowledged that “more and more passengers do not respect the obligation, especially because it is no longer mandatory elsewhere. Some people have forgotten it, don’t have a mask with them, or simply think it is no longer necessary.”
The number of checks that are carried out has not changed, Van Hamme says. In April, 67 police reports were drawn up – fewer than in March (81), February (139) and January (154).
Controls were carried out during ticket checks, interventions and patrols. During the peak of the pandemic, checks focused solely on face masks.
But in recent weeks, the mandate has faced growing criticism, both from members of the public and politicians. Federal Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet spoke in favour of dropping the requirement, with the country’s other Mobility Ministers in agreement.
It is probable that the mandate will be dropped at the next Consultative Committee, although virologists still urge caution: “The virus is still circulating too much. Getting rid of the mouth mask requirement everywhere would not yet be a good idea. But in the long run, it should certainly be possible: in the summer the virus circulates less anyway,” virologist Marc Van Ranst said.
Van Ranst again called attention to the need to monitor air quality closely.
Until masks are no longer required on public transport, STIB continues to raise awareness and carry out checks on the mask obligation.