Make wearing masks in stores mandatory, says Superior Health Council

Make wearing masks in stores mandatory, says Superior Health Council
Credit: Nickolay Romensky (CC BY 2.0)

Belgium's Superior Health Council, the scientific advisory body for the Federal Public Health Service, published advice on Thursday, in which it recommends making it compulsory to wear a face mask in stores.

The Superior Health Council announced its recommendation "in view of the scientific evidence concerning the usefulness of wearing a mask and the public health emergency."

Currently, wearing a face mask in stores and supermarkets is "highly recommended" by the National Security Council, but not mandatory, except for in some environments like on public transport.

"The virus could not only be spread by direct contact and droplets, but also by microdroplets that are much smaller and remain in the air for up to three hours," Nicolas Van Larebeke, scientific expert of the High Health Council, said on Radio 1.

"In an enclosed space, like a store, these droplets may accumulate in the air. That can therefore entail a risk of infection. That scientific insight becomes clearer with time," he added.

The obligation to wear a face mask in shops has been the subject of discussion in Belgium for quite some time, as several experts urged the government to make them compulsory in shops, but they stick to "highly recommending" them.

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"A significant part of our population runs a high risk of severe illness, disability or death after contracting the virus," the Council said.

"Additionally, it is also appropriate to protect the population against the sometimes inappropriate behaviour of some people who are not very concerned about their own protection and that of others," the Council added.

Wearing a mask also reminds the wearer's environment that the virus has not disappeared, according to the advice. However, it should not be a free pass to let go of the other measures.

"The protection afforded by wearing a mask is incomplete, and should not lead to a release of the other complementary beneficial measures," they added.

At the end of June, the Flemish city of Deinze wanted to introduce the obligation to wear a mask in grocery shops on its territory, but the decision was reversed by the Federal Interior Minister, Pieter De Crem, who said the mayor did not have the authority to make that decision.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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