Dutch divided, Belgians decided over face masks

People wearing face masks in a shopping street
Photo: Shutterstock.com

The Belgian government is enforcing the wearing of face masks in shopping streets, starting this weekend. The Netherlands are still divided over the issue, despite the dramatic resurgence in the number of Covid-19 cases.


No second lockdown

In both countries (and many others) the number of coronavirus cases is on the rise again, causing people to call on the governments to make face masks mandatory again. The Belgian government has followed the experts (in this matter), making it mandatory to wear a mask in crowded places like shopping streets and outdoor markets. In indoor stores, they are already mandatory; in pubs and restaurants, customers will have to wear them if they are not sitting down (e.g. to go to the toilet).


A completely different sound in the Netherlands: mayor of Nijmegen and president of the Safety Council Hubert Bruls argues that enforcing face masks would be "unwise": "The core of our policy is keeping a distance. That prevents the spread. With a face mask, people may be quicker in disobeying the distance rules", he said on the Dutch public radio NPO Radio 1.


The mayors of the Netherlands' biggest cities, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, were strongly in favour of making face masks mandatory, but Bruls counters and says that this would be difficult to maintain and it would generate chaos. Moreover, there is no clear proof that face masks even work, he says: "In some countries where masks are mandatory, the virus is still spreading." He sees just one advantage in making masks mandatory: "The things are so irritating, that they do instil conscience about the virus..."