‘Difficult period ahead’: experts fear that face masks are being ended too soon
Share article:
Share article:

‘Difficult period ahead’: experts fear that face masks are being ended too soon

Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst. Credit: Belga

The lifting of the mandatory face masks in shops and hospitality establishments in Flanders from 1 October is a cause for concern for virologist Steven Van Gucht, who fears that it is still a little too early.

The Consultative Committee on Friday allowed the regions to largely end the face mask obligation, against the recommendation of the GEMS expert groups advising the government.

In Flanders, wearing a mask will only remain mandatory on public transport, in care institutions and for contact professions such as hairdressers.

“I would very much have liked to have waited until October and November,” Van Gucht said on VRT’s television programme ‘Terzake’. “I think we could have relaxed the measures for face masks with much more peace of mind then.

“Face masks do not cost much, we do not have to wear them in very many places anymore,” he said. “I would have preferred to wait a bit longer. There is still a difficult period ahead.”

Related News:


For virologist Marc Van Ranst, the abolition of compulsory masks in the Flemish hospitality industry and shops is “a calculated risk.”

“If you were to ask the virologists – and they did – we would have preferred it to be a bit later or a bit slower, as has always been the case,” he said on Flemish radio. “But those are political decisions, of course.”

These relaxations will make a lot of people very happy, according to Van Ranst. “We could have waited another month, or made the shop and hospitality staff continue to wear a mask, but at some point, you have to dare to jump.”

However, with examples like Israel and the United States in mind, where a face mask obligation was first lifted and then reintroduced, he also remains cautious.

“We have to avoid that yo-yo effect. Hopefully, we will be rid of it forever, but that remains to be seen,” Van Ranst said.

Additionally, despite the high vaccination rate in Flanders, Van Gucht is “apprehensive” about a fourth wave of infections.

“The risks in Flanders are a lot smaller than in Wallonia and certainly than in Brussels,” he said. “But it also depends on a lot of other factors. How do people deal with [the relaxations], and how will employers deal with them?”

According to several predictive models from biostatisticians, Belgium still needs to watch out for a fourth wave, causing vaccinologist Pierre Van Damme to wonder if Flanders’ vaccination figures will be able to buffer that.

“With measures in some situations, such as masks in a number of places and the Covid Safe Ticket, will this be enough? If so, the wave may be one that meanders, and that we can handle with our healthcare,” he said. “That has always been the intention.”

Latest news

Increase in number of people ‘asking King for mercy’ through royal pardons
More and more people living in Belgium have been seeking royal pardons, mainly for fines, largely as a result of it now being possible to send in ...
England now accepting cheaper Covid tests from fully vaccinated travellers
Fully vaccinated travellers who enter England from non-red countries will only be required to book a lateral flow test to take following their ...
Re-introducing face masks indoors considered as Covid-19 situation worsens
Belgium's council of ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the worsening epidemiological situation, and reintroducing face ...
Federal museums to receive €2.9 million booster shot
Federal museums will receive an additional €2.9 million in support from the government for the fiscal year 2021, of which the first payouts will be ...
European Parliament emphasises healthy food and animal welfare in EU Farm to Fork Strategy
The European Parliament adopted this week a resolution on the EU Farm to Fork Strategy calling for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food ...
Threats of strike action could affect Brussels’ STIB network from Monday
Brussels public transport operator STIB's trams, buses and metros could be affected from Monday 25 October onwards as the union representing the ...
Number of international adoptions in Belgium continues to drop
The number of regulated international adoptions authorised by Belgium further dropped in 2020, continuing an ongoing decreasing trend. Last ...
Disaster drill with emergency services held at Brussels Airport
Around 300 people took part in a disaster drill held was organised on Saturday by Brussels Airport in collaboration with external emergency services ...
Austria presents bill to legalise euthanasia
Austria’s government on Saturday presented its proposals for legalising assisted suicide, in response to a Constitutional Court ruling that the ...
Brussels’ Museum Night Fever draws in some 12,000 visitors
Some 12,000 participants took part in the 14th edition of Museum Night Fever in Brussels, with the 29 participating museums filled to the maximum ...
Relaunch of 10,000 steps campaign to get Flemish people moving
The Flemish government is breathing new life into its 10,000 steps campaign to get people in the region moving after a recent survey found that a ...
‘No scientific basis’ for giving everyone third dose, vaccine expert says
The head of Belgium's Vaccination Taskforce has argued that there is not enough scientific evidence to support the Flemish government's decision to ...