The obligation to wear a face mask in public comes into force in all of the Brussels-Capital region this morning, but not all experts are agreed on the measure’s utility.
The obligation to wear a mask in all public places comes as the region as a whole has a reported incidence of the coronavirus Covid-19 greater that 50 cases per 100,000 population.
The measure covers all 19 municipalities of the region, despite the fact that not all of them have exceeded the limit. Watermael-Boitsfort, for example, has an incidence of only 28 according to the latest figures from the health institute Sciensano. Uccle currently stands at 26, and Ixelles just under the threshold at 48.
“Bearing in mind that in Brussels the virus is spreading, of course in some neighbourhoods more than in others, but the entire Brussels region is affected by the increase in the number of cases, since in reality, almost all the municipalities have exceeded the threshold of 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, this is a message that we want to send to citizens, beyond the measures that have already been taken,” said Rudi Vervoort (PS), minister-president of Brussels region.
But the experts are not agreed on the utility of the measure.
For epidemiologist Pierre Van Damme of the university of Antwerp, the measure comes too late.
“We should have taken that decision 48 hours earlier, when we were already seeing the curve go up,” he told Het Laatste Nieuws.
Brussels is now experiencing the same evolution seen in Antwerp two weeks ago, he said.
However for professor Yves Coppieters of the Brussels free university ULB, the mask obligation goes too far.
“Until now, wearing a mask was compulsory in shopping streets and urban neighbourhoods and that seemed to me quite proportionate,” he said.
“To extend the measure further is not going to make those who did not wear a mask before do so now. The measure is too broad.”
That view is shared by Jean-Luc Gala, professor at the university of Louvain-la-Neuve.
“It’s a bit like taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut,” he said.
“The measure has the merit of being clear, but if you cannot associate it with a scientific justification that wins popular support, it will not work.”