The free face masks that the federal government promised to every Belgian resident at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis have arrived in the country, and will be distributed from 15 June.
Following a lot of difficulties as ordered masks did not arrive, or the ones that did were declared unusable, the free masks for every Belgian citizen have arrived at the army barracks of Peutie.
Over the next few days, they will be distributed by the Ministry of Defence to central points where they will then be further distributed to pharmacies.
"Defence is the only organisation in Belgium that can quickly mobilise a lot of people, who are well trained," said General Marc Compernol, the Chief of Defence (CHOD), during a press conference about the masks in the Peutie quarter. "In a very short time, we responded to the question put to us by the government," he added.
From 15 June, every Belgian resident will be able to get one through a fixed procedure. Priority will be given to people over 75 years old on the first day. The day after, the age limit will drop to people from 67 years old.
From 17 June, everyone over 60 will be able to get one. The age limit will continue to drop until 26 June, when everyone in possession of an eID or kidsID will be allowed to pick one up.
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The masks are white with elastic bands, and do not require a filter. They consist of three layers. One layer consists of 100% polyester, the other two are made partly of polyester, partly of cotton.
Additionally, they have an antibacterial layer, and will need to be washed after use, which will be possible up to 30 times. They should be washed by hand, not at a maximum temperature of 30 degrees, to prevent the antibacterial layer from breaking down.
The first delivery of 3 million masks, via Ghent company Tweeds and Cotton, arrived two weeks ago, withing the agreed deadline.
The other 15 million masks, by Luxembourgian company Avrox, arrived later than agreed, resulting in a fine for the company. The federal government will pay €5.5 million less, on the total sum of €40 million. The cost price per mask drops from €2.5 to €2.13.
The Brussels Times