Compulsory face masks, day one: ‘Everything went calmly’
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    Compulsory face masks, day one: ‘Everything went calmly’

    © Belga

    Yesterday was the first day the population was obliged to wear a face mask in public spaces like shops, banks and cinemas.

    The measure had been introduced at very short notice, although experts had been calling for it for longer. How did it go on the first day?

    The rule was very well respected, that was what we hoped for,” said Dominique Michel, managing director of Comeos, the federation for the retail sector. “We appealed to everyone’s sense of responsibility and everyone heard that call. It went very well.”

    Prior to the new rule coming into force, the sector had been concerned at the position shop staff might be placed into, in having to deal with customers who might refuse to wear a mask.

    Some people had simply forgotten their mask, and some stores had even provided masks for the distracted. Otherwise we were not faced with the situation we had feared, either to expel offenders or to refuse access to customers. Everything went calmly.”

    VTM News went out and about in Flanders to poll the reactions of shoppers and shop staff to the new rule, and found a similar climate of acceptance.

    At the Carrefour in Zemst, only one person had no mask. Another customer said the measure should have been introduced long ago.

    I am pleased, not only for myself but also for other people,” the man said. “After all, it is protection for yourself, but also for others. So I think it’s completely right. There is no longer any need to discuss whether or not it should be done, everyone is doing it and that is very good.”

    Another woman said she had not habitually worn a mast before, but had no problem accepting the new rule. “If it’s not compulsory, hardly anyone will do it. A good decision, especially now that more people are allowed into the shop.”

    A reminder: the law states, “Everyone over the age of 12 is obliged to cover their mouth and nose with a mask or any other fabric alternative in the following establishments: shops and shopping centres; cinemas; concert or conference halls; auditoria; places of worship; museums; libraries; casinos and gambling halls; and the buildings of the justice system (the parts accessible to the public).”

    Children under 12 are not obliged to wear a mask. People who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons are excused, but must in that case wear a plastic face-screen.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times