The city of Deinze, in the East-Flanders province, has made wearing a face mask mandatory in all its supermarkets from 1 July, becoming the first city in Flanders to implement such a measure.
The measure will apply in the 17 supermarkets and mini-supermarkets ("superettes") on the city's territory.
"The reason for this strict measure is that, in recent weeks, we have seen an increase in the number of new infections of Covid-19 in Deinze," mayor Jan Vermeulen told De Standaard.
"Additionally, we have noticed that supermarkets are getting busier and busier and that face masks are worn much less than a few weeks ago. That is dangerous," he said, explaining that many customers also do not adhere to the social distancing rules.
"We were one of the cities with the lowest number of infections, and were the first to provide everyone with free masks. That action was well-received [by our inhabitants]," Vermeulen added.
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The managers of a number of stores reacted quite positively, reports Het Nieuwsblad. "I was the first in Belgium to offer hand gels, and the trolleys were regularly disinfected by a member of staff," said Geert Dewitte of Delhaize.
"It will not be easy to convince a customer who does not want to wear a mask," said Silja Decock of the Colruyt Group.
"We do everything we can to inform our customers and raise awareness so that it becomes a safe story for both employees and customers. This was probably also the reasoning being followed by the Deinze city council," Decock added. "We can, however, not set up our own monitoring service."
The National Security Council did not introduce an obligation to wear masks in supermarkets or other stores during the press conference when it announced Phase 4, despite many experts thinking the measure would be beneficial.
The Brussels Times