Even though the rules for wearing a face mask have been relaxed in Belgium since 1 October, virologist Steven Van Gucht still urges people not to leave the house without one.
While the Brussels-Capital Region and Wallonia are currently still sticking to stricter mask rules, Flanders no longer requires them at work, in shops or in bars and restaurants.
Still, leaving your face mask at home when you go out is not a good idea, Van Gucht said during a press conference on the day the changes took effect. “Do not leave it at home just yet.”
“Always taking a face mask with you is still a healthy reflex,” he said, advising people to spontaneously put on a mask in crowded places or when coming into contact with people from a vulnerable group.
“Even if you have mild complaints (sore throat, headache or runny nose), it is better to wear a mask in the presence of others, preventively,” Van Gucht said. In case of a combination of health complaints, isolating yourself and getting a Covid-19 test is still the rule.
Last week, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) presented a new risk analysis, predicting a high burden on hospitals this autumn in areas where vaccination coverage is low (55% or lower).
“Brussels can be considered a high-risk area, while Flanders is safe with a high vaccination rate,” Van Gucht clarified.
While ECDC director Andrea Ammon stated that all European countries should strive for higher vaccination coverage in all age groups, she stressed that “non-pharmaceutical interventions” such as face masks should also remain in place until the end of November.
For Van Gucht, it remains to be seen how the figures will evolve, but “there is currently little movement” in them, “and that is a good sign.”
“In all regions, a decrease is visible,” he said, adding that although the infection and hospitalisation figures in Brussels remain high, they are going in the right direction again.