The Wallonia-Brussels Federation, FWB, is distributing 850,000 masks to primary and secondary schools on Sunday, ahead of their phased reopening, which begins on 18 May.
“All the masks were sent, up to very late yesterday evening, to the 95 distribution centres,” Stephane Adam, inspector general of secondary education, said on Sunday. “Today, 150 inspectors in charge of these centres will distribute the material to the heads of the 2,400 schools.
The operation will be carried out throughout the day. We have set a rigorous delivery schedule to avoid a ‘waiting-room’ effect.”
School heads will need to check the packages and make sure they have received enough masks before preparing to distribute them to students and members of the teaching, administrative and ancillary staff.
About 600,000 of the masks are disposable surgical ones, while the remainder are made of cloth.
“Due to a delay by one of the companies, which will only supply the 300,000 cloth masks originally scheduled on Monday next, an emergency agreement was reached with the federal minister, Philippe De Backer, for the Federation to buy 600,000 disposable masks from a Federal Government supplier,” the Government explained last week.
It added that an accord was also reached “with the German-speaking Community, which has donated an extra 50,000 cloth masks to the Wallonia-Brussels Federation.”
The disposable masks are masks that were decommissioned for use in medical institutions but were tested and approved by the Federal Medicines Agency.
The available masks will enable teachers and students to have the protection they need when they return to school on Monday, the FWB Government said. Its objective is to have everyone equipped with a cloth mask by 25 May at the latest. In the meantime, those who do not have them will receive two disposable masks per day.
Under the deconfinement strategy worked out by the FWB Government in late April with education-sector stakeholders, the gradual reopening of schools begins on Monday 18 May with sixth-year primary school pupils and students in the sixth and seventh years of secondary school.
Students in the second year of secondary school, as well as those in the first and second years of primary school, are scheduled to start out the following week, where possible.
The FWB will make another distribution of masks ahead of the new batch of returning students.
Masks are not compulsory for children under the age of 12 years.