The Belgian public transport companies De Lijn, STIB and SNCB will strictly enforce the wearing of face masks from 4 May, despite the possible shortage as the authorities cannot provide them in time.
The wearing of face masks will become mandatory in all situations where the 1.5 metres social distance cannot be maintained, such as on public transport and on stations, from 4 May.
To make sure everyone complies with this measure, the National Security Council on Friday announced that the government would ensure that every citizen would be given "at least one standard fabric face mask, free of charge, that completely covers the mouth and nose" as well as two filters to put in the masks.
However, Federal Justice Minister Koen Geens, who is responsible for providing everyone with a mask, said that "it is not possible, in this short term, to roll out a national production, which provides enough masks for everyone."
"It is the government that imposed the obligation to wear a face mask as of 4 May, so we assume that, as of 4 May, everyone who takes public transport, and in this case the train, will also have a face mask," Bart Crols, spokesperson for the SNCB, told The Brussels Times.
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"However, this does not have to be an actual mask, but can also be other means that cover and protect the nose and throat, such as a scarf," he said, adding that the most important thing was to protect yourself and respect others.
STIB also pointed to the use of scarves or bandanas while waiting for the government-provided face masks. "How this will be checked will be fine-tuned in the coming days, but we are prepared to help the government enforce compliance with this obligation, just as we do with social distancing," An Van Hamme, a STIB spokesperson, told The Brussels Times, referring to checks being carried out by STIB security services together with police forces.
Bus company De Lijn also points to scarves or bandanas for people who do not have a face mask (yet). "In the first phase, our inspectors will mainly raise awareness and provide information, and we will see whether we can allow them to play a sanitation role at a later stage," spokesperson Karen Van Der Sype told The Brussels Times.
"However, if a driver is confronted with a traveller who really does not want to cover their nose and mouth, they can ask for police assistance through the dispatching," Van Der Sype said. "Covering nose and mouth is mandatory for all travellers aged 12 years and older, and we will strictly enforce that," she added.
The Brussels Times