Wearing a mouth mask when going out in public is not necessary during this period of confinement, Belgium’s Health Minister Maggie De Block said on Sunday.
However, the decision to advise the public to wear a mouth mask at a later deconfinement phase could still be taken.
Currently, “scientifically, it does not make sense,” De Block said on the “C’est pas tous les jours dimanche” programme on RTL.
The minister says she understands the emotions and anxieties of people who wish to wear a mask but reiterated that hygiene measures like handwashing “are more important,” referring to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.
Virologist Marc Van Ranst, speaking at VRT’s Zevende Dag, says that the general public is finding itself in a state of nervousness now, whereby part of the population seems to want new measures, “but such measures should make sense, and if each commune has a different policy from the other, it will not help,” he added.
For Minister Philippe De Backer, who is in charge of the management and logistics of mouth masks, the containment measures currently undertaken in Belgium, makes the public wearing of masks by everyone redundant.
However, it could become relevant when we start the phase of gradual return to normal life, he added. “We will think about it, always in line with the WHO rules.”
When that time comes, wearing a mask would only be one of the measures, Emmanuel André, Belgium’s inter-federal spokesperson for the fight against Covid-19, emphasizes.
Among other measures, it might also be necessary to increase the number and frequency of public transport trains and buses, to facilitate social distancing between commuters.
“We will not be able to test everyone,” André points out, but the focus will be on the most fragile and those most exposed. In any case, additional measures will have to be maintained even for immunized people, as they could always spread the virus.
No minister wants to speculate on a potential date for when life could start to get back to normal.
On Tuesday, test coronavirus capacity will increase to 10,000 per day throughout Belgium, said De Backer. Medical experts must determine which segments of the population will be tested first.
Asked about the school calendar, Minister of Education Caroline Désir confirmed that several scenarios were being studied. The Wallonia-Brussels Federation will discuss the matter further on Tuesday, and cancelling examinations is not off the table.