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    Compulsory masks in shops: the view on the ground

    © Belga

    Starting tomorrow, it will be compulsory to wear a face mask in all shops and shopping centres, as well as other enclosed spaces.

    Having had only a day of advance warning, people in the retail sector have been caught somewhat by surprise, but say they are ready to comply. Some reactions:

    We had actually just started to reduce the number of staff at the entrance of our stores,” said Hanne Poppe of Colruyt.

    We will bring them back again in the coming week, and we will also offer a free mask for people who may have forgotten theirs in the first week. Although we assume it will not be necessary for the majority.”

    The twice-weekly market in Blankenberge has employed students to inform the crowds of the new rules, and they were already on duty today.

    “We usually get polite responses,” said one. “People have a mask with them which they put on right away. Some people who don’t have a mask ignore us. But there have not been any major discussions. If that happens, we can use the walkie-talkie to notify our team leader or the police.”

    In Antwerp, some pharmacists have noticed a sudden surge in people coming in to collect the free masks made available some time ago by the city council and the federal government. People who had left the free masks untouched because they already had their own now see that the masks will be used more, so are stocking up, one pharmacist explained.

    The new rule also applies to shopping centres. For the administrator of the Belle-Ile centre in Liege, the decision has taken the sector by surprise, as it was not expected until next week at the earliest. “But we will adapt,” said Kasper Deforche.

    I am not an expert, but one thing which is fundamental for me is to have a situation which is now clear,” he said.

    There were people who wore masks and who were not always happy that others did not. To enter certain stores, you were obliged to wear a mask, for others not, in the same shopping centre. That debate is no longer relevant.”

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times