Belgium lifts face mask obligation on public transport, travel rules from Monday

Belgium lifts face mask obligation on public transport, travel rules from Monday
Credit: Belga

The Consultative Committee has decided to deactivate Belgium's coronavirus barometer from Monday 23 May, meaning the face mask obligation on public transport will disappear after the weekend.

While the Consultative Committee is usually followed by a press conference with Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke and the Minister-President of each region, the authorities announced their decisions via a press release on Friday.

As all coronavirus indicators are evolving positively, the obligation to wear a face mask will be lifted everywhere – except in hospitals, doctor's offices and pharmacies. "This means people will no longer have to wear a face mask in public transport," said De Croo.

This also means that passengers will be able to use the front doors to get on De Lijn's buses again, as the plastic separation between the driver and the passengers will be removed from next week, the company announced.

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Still, wearing a mask remains recommended in very busy places and in healthcare environments such as residential care centres or when going to the dentist, physiotherapist, psychologist or even speech therapist.

Proper ventilation of indoor spaces also remains highly recommended as it is a strong defence against virus transmission and is generally good for wellbeing, health and productivity.

The ban on non-essential travel from outside the European Union will also be lifted, as will the obligation to get tested on days 1 and 7 upon return to Belgium. The 10-day quarantine, the requirement to present a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) and a valid vaccination, recovery or test certificate will also be gone.

"However, this does not apply to travellers coming from a country with a new variant of concern. For them, the current rules continue to apply," De Croo said.

Pandemic preparedness

Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a clear strengthening of the "lines of defence," including testing, contact tracing, vaccination, ventilation, healthcare capacity, pandemic surveillance (including genome sequencing) and mental wellbeing.

The Consultative Committee wants to anchor this defence in a sustainable way and requests advice from the Covid Focal Point, which will work closely with the different Regional Governments for this.

Additionally, the Interministerial Conference (IMC) for Public Health will investigate whether and how an additional booster shot can provide better protection against a possible new wave.

The Minister of Health will further investigate the epidemiological added value of the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) and its place in the coronavirus barometer.

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