In March, Sciensano said that the masks could be “worn around the neck, but never in the pocket,” De Morgen reports, in guidelines issued not only to hospital workers but to staff in nursing homes and other health care professionals working through the pandemic.
But in an email seen by the outlet, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Europe director Hans Kluge says that wearing a mask around the neck and putting it back on was risky because it required manipulating the mask, the outside of which could be infected.
“While it is theoretically safe, after hand-washing, to place a used medical mask under the chin or around the neck, it is not possible to put the used medical mask back on (…) without touching the used mask and the face,” he wrote.
He said that the mishandling of masks may have led to infections among health care workers, according to De Morgen.
While Belgium’s Superior Health Council said that the recommendation was removed on 16 April, the outlet reports that regional authorities were not notified of the change.