Face masks can now be mass-distributed

Face masks can now be mass-distributed
Credit: Belga

The sale of surgical masks in mass distribution will now be allowed, Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès and the Ministers-President of Belgium's regions announced on Saturday.

"As recommended by the Group of Experts in charge of an Exit Strategy (GEES), the sale of surgical masks will be allowed to individuals as a precautionary measure, to allow any citizen in need of them to obtain protective equipment," Wilmès and the Ministers-President said in a joint statement. This sale of masks in mass distribution, strictly controlled, is one of the elements of a "common and coordinated strategy" announced by the different levels of power in the country.

With this announcement, the royal decree of 23 March 2020 will be suspended. This ruling stipulated that the retail sale of personal protective equipment was "only permitted by authorised pharmacies". However, the suspension of this provision will be kept under constant review.

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The Prime Minister and the Ministers-President emphasised that "measures will be taken by the retail sector to ensure that this sale is carried out in a reasoned and regulated manner to avoid mass purchases that would be detrimental to the general interest."

"The retail sector has undertaken not to make access to these masks a commercial operation and to guarantee the quality of the products sold," they added.

The sector "undertakes to organise the sale in such a way that the conditions of respect for social distancing are ensured and that a maximum number of households can have rapid access to a batch of masks", the press release goes on to say.

From Monday, the date that marks the start of deconfinement in Belgium, wearing masks covering the mouth and nose will be strongly recommended for persons aged 12 and older in public spaces and will be compulsory on public transport, according to the decision taken by the National Security Council on 24 April.

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