Making face masks mandatory for children from 9 years old - as the GEMS experts recommended in their leaked report - is not a good idea, according to several politicians.
Federal Health Minister Vandenbroucke said that even though it is necessary, he understands it is not "easy or fun" for such young children to wear a mask in class; but Flemish Ministers for Education and Youth, Ben Weyts and Benjamin Dalle respectively, strongly oppose the proposal.
"There are many infections in all age groups and this is also the case with children, but we should not underestimate what this face mask obligation means for them," Dalle said on Flemish radio.
With children of that age, who are still working on improving their speech, it is important to be careful as masks are "not innocent," he said. "I think that sometimes people underestimate the impact that something like this has on children."
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Weyts also pointed out that making children from the third grade wear a mask for seven hours a day has an enormous impact on them and their learning process.
"On top of that, the effectiveness of the measure decreases with age, because face masks only make sense if they are worn properly," he said last weekend.
Additionally, Dalle stressed that it is "a bit annoying" that fingers are immediately pointed at children and young people when problems with the virus arise.
"We should mainly look at the measures we can take as adults and comply with them," he said, calling generalised mask obligation for children from 9 years old "really disproportionate."
No scientific evidence
In the meantime, the socialist Francophone PS party also released a statement opposing the obligation for pupils younger than 12 years old.
"We categorically oppose a face mask obligation for anyone under 12 years of age. There are already many obligations in education and there is no scientific consensus for this," the party stated.
"And if there is no scientific evidence, priority should be given to learning. A face mask has an impact on the children's well-being, on their expression and interaction, and therefore on their learning," it added.
On Wednesday, the Consultative Committee will meet from 2:30 PM to discuss which measures will be implemented. Following the meeting, a press conference will be held to announce the latest changes, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed to The Brussels Times.