A move by an international supermarket chain to start selling face masks in stores will not be replicated in Belgian branches yet due to a lack of permission from the government to do so.
While the Carrefour supermarket chain announced it would start selling fabric face masks in Spain, the Belgian branch of the chain has said the decision to do similar lies with the government, not the company.
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.
However, the decision to start selling masks in all its branches is not up to the company, Aurelie Gerth, Communication Director at Carrefour Belgium, told The Brussels Times. "In the context of the coronavirus crisis, this decision is taken country by country, by the national authorities," she said.
"We do not have permission from the government to sell face masks," Gerth said. "We are dependent on the government's guidelines, which are very clear at the moment. Supermarkets are not allowed to sell masks, but the government is thinking about changing that, as everyone will have to start wearing them on public transport from 4 May," she added.
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"Supermarkets may be allowed to sell fabric masks, but the sale of surgical masks is reserved for pharmacists," a spokesperson for Comeos, the Belgian Federation for Commerce and Services, told The Brussels Times. "Supermarkets are not allowed to buy or sell them," he added.
"However, these fabric masks are also not being sold yet," he said, referring to the debate on the use of these fabric masks, as, initially, the authorities said that masks were not necessary. "Our department stores are no experts, they just follow the advice. For a long time, it said that there was no need to sell mouth masks, so we did not," he added.
"It is a possibility that that government guidelines will change, in which case we will start selling them. If it does not change, we won't. We are waiting for the decision," he added.
The Brussels Times