There is no longer a mask shortage in Belgium, says Wilmès

There is no longer a mask shortage in Belgium, says Wilmès
Credit: Belga

Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès was questioned at length on Thursday in a plenary session of the House of Representatives about the decisions taken by the National Security Council (NSC) on Wednesday.

The issues of face masks, their quality and price were debated. Wilmès faced criticism from the francophone Socialist Party (PS) and the Workers' Party (PTB).

"We are seeing insane prices on masks and on hydro-alcoholic gels because the government did not want to regulate prices," said Patrick Prévot (PS). "Masks are not available because your government lacked foresight and put the responsibility on the mayors," he added. "And in supermarkets, quality is already being questioned by professionals and the first buyers," Prévot said, telling the goverment to "restore order in this mess."

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"There are six ministers for masks, soon to be a seventh for elastics," said Raoul Hedebouw (PTB) with irony. "And the worst thing is that we don't have them, while there were stocks in mass distribution." Hedebouw also called for a pricing framework.

"All levels of government are doing their utmost," Wilmès said, "and the [federal] government is part of this common will to support the Regions which, I remind you, have the competence of prevention. Don't forget this," she urged the PS, who are represented in regional governments.

"There is no longer any shortage on the market," Wilmès added. "The federal strategic stockpile has 40 million masks available on demand. In addition, supermarkets provide 5 million masks per week for the benefit of the federal or interfederal stock." Wilmès said that allowing supermarkets to sell face masks would also help "feed our reserve." The Prime Minister also announced an additional 12 million cloth masks for the end of the month and 22 million filters to reinforce homemade masks.

"You can't blame the government for making this kind of decision after having criticized it for not doing enough," she concluded. "And on prices, let's not cut corners. We are in a global market with the law of supply and demand. To pretend that it doesn't exist is to lie to the public."

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