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Face masks will return to supermarket shelves from Tuesday after the government lifted sales restrictions in preparation for Belgium’s progressive lockdown phase-out.
To prevent hoarding, supermarkets will limit the number of masks a single client can buy, Dominique Michel, president of business trade federation Comeos told Le Soir.
Michel also said that in purchasing and selling face masks in large numbers, supermarkets were looking to step up to their “societal role,” and that they were not looking to make a profit.
“Masks will be sold at cost price, with a small supplement that we will donate to a charitable cause in its integrity,” he said, without specifying the recipients of the donation.
The value-added tax (VAT) of face masks and hydroalcoholic gels will be cut to 6% from the current 21%, Finance Minister Alexander De Croo announced at the weekend.
Big retailers reportedly did not centralise their purchase and, according to RTL, not all stocks will be put immediately up for sale.
While major supermarket chains Carrefour and Delhaize are ready to begin selling from Tuesday 7sur7 reports that others, like Colryut and Lidl, will not start selling masks until 11 May, the second key deconfinement date eyed by authorities.
The return of face masks to the supermarket stalls comes after the government tightened regulation on their distribution to the public in an effort to keep control over scarce national stocks of protective equipment.
In an agreement with authorities, supermarket chains will use their logistics network to progressively refill the government’s own face masks stocks, which were left empty following a ministerial decision to not renew them.
“We want to make an additional effort and use our logistics to supply not only our clients but also health workers,” Michel said. “We are going to supply the federal government, each week, with a significant quantity of masks for the federal reserve.”
This week, the decision to allow supermarkets to sell face masks again was called out by Belgian pharmacists, who said the selling of face masks without appropriate instructions could be harmful to stemming the pandemic’s spread and could negatively impact health workers’ access to vital protective equipment.