Belgium in Brief: Time for a mask upgrade?

Belgium in Brief: Time for a mask upgrade?

Masks have become part of our daily outfit, almost as indispensable as socks. In the first months of the pandemic, we all had those moments of closing the door behind us only to rush back in to grab one. Now, they have found their way into coat pockets, handbags, and glove boxes.

And with good reason: doing anything in public – be it popping into a shop or catching the bus – is nigh-on impossible without a fabric square covering mouth and nose. No matter the country, the global consensus goes that masks are one of the most effective measures to stop the spread of Covid. Or so it seemed…

Perhaps unsurprisingly, all masks are not equal and some are far more effective at filtering the air we breathe. More and more, medical advice is that FFP2 masks should be the go-to accessory in the ever-raging corona-wars.

Now whilst many of us have become quite attached to our cloth coverings, your previous correspondent had a particular penchant for his Batman mask, the evidence in favour of these medical-grade super-masks is quite convincing:

Surgical masks – those blue ones bought in bulk (and that have sadly become an environmental menace) – are calculated to be 100 times less effective than the FFP2 masks. Given the highly infectious nature of the latest Omicron variant, this is a pretty persuasive argument for upgrading your face-wear.

Will you be making the switch? Let @OrlandoWhitehe6 know.

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Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your lunch break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:

1. ‘Frites Oscars’ spark controversy with no Brussels frituurs making the cut

Belgium’s ‘Frites Academy Awards’ that ranks the year’s best chip shops has triggered outcry among Brussels and Flemish fryers as the top 15 places all went to French Walloon entrants. Read more.

2. Belgium increasingly recommends FFP2 masks: what you need to know

In the ongoing battle against new coronavirus variants, the masks that we use are a key line of defence that can be quickly improved. Increasingly, there are recommendations to switch the regular cloth masks for an FFP2 one; in some places this is even required. Read more.

3. 111 academics denounce ‘tunnel vision’ of Belgian government and virologists

Scientists and other prominent figures in Belgian society have condemned Belgium’s strategy to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic in a “Winter Manifesto” signed by 111 academics. They criticise what they call “tunnel vision and group think” from the country’s government and virologists. Read more.

4. Belgium to introduce stricter retail rules to stop consumers getting swindled

From July this year, shops that offer products at a reduced price will have to show the lowest price charged during the previous month. This reference price will prevent consumers from being tricked into purchasing products at what they believe to be a discount. Read more.

5. ‘Not cuddly creatures’: Wolves in Europe divide public opinion

The wolf has made a comeback in Europe, including in Belgium, but not everyone is equally happy to see the return of the species. By EU law, Member States are required to preserve or restore the living conditions of large carnivores but measures are now being considered to curb the wolf population. Read more.

6. Covid deals lasting blow to passenger numbers on Brussels public transport

The Brussels public transport operator STIB does not expect passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2022. Read more.

7. Hidden Belgium: Mechelen’s lost river

It’s one of Flanders’ forgotten rivers. The Dijle flows secretly between old buildings in Mechelen, but you can sometimes track it down if you know where to look. Read more.

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