Belgium to relax face mask rules

Europe Materials 24 September 2020 02:29 (UTC +04:00)
Belgium to relax face mask rules

The wearing of face masks in all public spaces will no longer be mandatory in Belgium after Oct. 1, the government said on Wednesday, Trend reports citing Xinhua.

However, it will be strongly recommended in heavily frequented places and in areas where a 1.5-meter safety distance cannot be guaranteed. These places will be determined at a local level, according to the government's risk management strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Belgium must learn to live with COVID-19 and manage the risks it entails, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said after a meeting of the country's National Security Council.

Outlining the risk management strategy, Wilmes said she hoped that life would soon return to normal.

The "six golden rules -- namely regular hand washing, social distancing, wearing a mask, favoring outdoor activities, protecting the elderly and protecting the sick -- are the basis of our strategy to control the epidemic," she said.

According to the strategy, gatherings remain limited to a maximum of ten people, although this rule does not apply to children.

The government has also decided to increase the testing capacity of the country's existing COVID-19 centers and to establish new screening points. On Sept. 30, Belgium will also launch the "CoronaAlert" mobile application.

Under the country's new quarantine regime, from Oct. 1 the current 14-day isolation will be reduced to seven days.

The quarantine obligation will continue to apply to people returning to Belgium from so-called orange or red zones. Traveling to such zones will be strongly discouraged but not prohibited from this Friday onwards.

Belgium's Sciensano Institute reported a daily average of 1,374 new COVID-19 cases over the past seven days.

The country has reported a total of 105,226 cases and 9,955 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.