Belgium's federal obligation to wear a face mask is being lifted from today, but as not all regions are fully applying that relaxation, the rules in Flanders, the Brussels-Capital Region and Wallonia will differ.
The Consultative Committee decided on 17 September to create a "federal base" for measures that apply to the entire country. On top of those, regional governments can still add stricter rules if the situation calls for them.
This means that for people over 12 years old in all of Belgium, wearing a face mask will only remain mandatory in these circumstances:
- on public transport, in stations and in airports,
- in healthcare facilities (such as hospitals and residential care centres),
- in the medical (like doctors) and non-medical contact professions (such as hairdressers and tattoo artists),
- at events, cultural and other performances, sports competitions and training sessions, and congresses with more than 500 people indoors and 750 people outdoors, without Covid Safe Ticket (CST).
Discos, dance halls and nightclubs can also reopen, provided that the air quality and ventilation are ensured and the CST is required - which in practice means that people will not have to wear face masks either.
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Flanders is following these rules, and is not adding any stricter measures to this "federal base" that was agreed on, says Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon.
In practice, this means that masks will no longer be required in the hospitality sector or shops in Flanders, both for clients and staff.
The Brussels-Capital Region, however, will not apply these relaxations, Minister-President Rudi Vervoort said.
“Face masks will remain compulsory in shops and the hospitality industry and on the work floor,” he announced in mid-September, adding that the region's vaccination rate is too low (just over 50% of adults are fully vaccinated) for any kind of relaxations.
Additionally, Dutch-speaking colleges and universities in Brussels are still applying a general obligation to wear a mask, contrary to the rules in Flanders. This obligation does not apply to Francophone colleges and universities in Brussels, just like it no longer applies in Wallonia.
While it initially seemed like Wallonia would follow Flanders, a press release from Minister-President Elio Di Rupo on Thursday announced that the obligation to wear a mask "will also be maintained in the sectors where it already was applicable in the region, for the time being."
This means that, in addition to the places established in the federal base, wearing a mask remains mandatory at work, in conference rooms, auditoriums, places of worship, courthouses, libraries, during events, in busy places (such as shopping streets), annual markets and at fairs.
Update: This article was updated with the latest information available on 1 October.