Wearing a face mask in public gives a false sense of security, stressed Federal Minister for Public Health Maggie De Block.
Belgium's National Security Council announced on Friday that face masks will become mandatory on public transport, and "strongly recommended" in other public places from 4 May. However, Federal Justice Minister Koen Geens said that it would not be manageable to provide every citizen with a mask by that date.
On Monday, De Block stressed that only wearing a face mask will not stop the new coronavirus (Covid-19) from spreading.
"Keeping your distance and washing your hands is much more important. We have always said that and it will stay that way," she said to VRT. "A mask is not going to stop the virus, but it is an extra barrier. Any barrier will do if we cannot keep the necessary distance from others, but masks give a false sense of security," De Block added.
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"All other measures have 90% effect. Face masks will only add a few percents, but they can be important. Every drop that can be stopped is one less chance that the virus will spread," said virologist and inter-federal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht.
The government also promised everyone one mask, free of charge, but they will not be delivered before 4 May. "Very little will change on 5 May," said De Block. "It is not the case that everyone will suddenly take public transport then. We will have enough masks for everyone," she added.
Belgian public transport companies De Lijn, SNCB and STIB said that they would strictly enforce the wearing of fabric face masks, but added that anything covering the nose and mouth, such as a scarf or a bandana, would also be accepted.
The Brussels Times