As France moves to lift the requirement to wear a mask on public transport beginning next week, experts in Brussels are calling for the same to be done here in Belgium.
On 16 May, masks won’t be needed in airports and on planes in the European Union, either. But the requirements are still in place for Belgium, even if they’re rarely followed anymore.
“It doesn’t make sense anymore,” one passenger using the Brussels metro told La Dernière Heure.
“I’m vaccinated, I get tested if I feel sick. In the middle of the crisis, I used to wear a mask all the time. But now it’s not possible.”
SNCB gave out 6,000 fines for not wearing a mask
Belgian railway company SNCB also still has a requirement to wear a mask and has given out around 6,000 fines for passengers who refuse since the pandemic began.
But the number of fines being given out has dwindled – there were hardly 200 total in the first five months of 2022.
Ministers from Brussels, along with federal Mobility Ministers, have put off making a decision on the mask requirement for public transport until the next consultative committee meeting on 20 May.
Infectious diseases specialist Yves Van Laethem says he is “rather in favour of lifting the the obligation,” pointing out that the virus is in a “downward phase and there is no reason to believe that this will be reversed.”
Epidemiologist Yves Coppieters largely agreed: “This general measure no longer distinguishes between people at risk and others. It is logical to relax, most European countries are doing so… but we need nuance and to encourage people at risk to keep the mask on.”
Van Laethem said that ending the obligation to wear a mask today, when the health situation is stable, would make it easier to re-impose the mask in the future if necessary.
“If there is a significant wave this autumn, it will probably be necessary to reintroduce it because the mask is a simple, effective and fairly inexpensive technique for combating effective and fairly inexpensive way to fight the epidemic,” he said.