The decision to make mouth masks compulsory in all shops is widely supported within the Belgian retail sector, but shopkeepers are not willing to act as policemen and reject sanctions.
"Responsibility with the customer"
Late Thursday evening, the Consultative Committee decided to make mouth masks compulsory in all shops and shopping centres and also in other busy places such as cinemas, theatres, concert and conference halls, auditoria, places of worship, museums and libraries. In so doing, the government is following the advice of the Health Council, which had again argued for an obligation on Thursday.
Anyone who fails to respect the obligation risks a criminal sanction. The Ministerial Decree also provides for the possible closure of stores that repeatedly violate the rules. Retail federation Comeos already finds the latter unacceptable: "Legally, today we do not have the possibility to physically stop customers who do not wear mouth masks or to put someone who does not wear a mouth mask at the door. The responsibility for wearing a mouth mask should always lie with the customer, not the retailer. We therefore ask that the government supervise compliance with the measure. We cannot act as police officers", says CEO Dominique Michel in a press release.
"Government must be responsible for controls"
"We support a general obligation, provided that the government is responsible for the controls. Our people are not policemen. They have been working hard since March and are not eager to take on another task", says spokesman Roel Dekelver of Delhaize in newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws. "It is not up to us to enforce such an obligation on our customers", says Hanne Poppe of Colruyt.
Trade union ACV Puls sees the decision as a victory: "'We have been advocating mouth masks from day one to increase the safety of store staff and all customers'', says Kristel Van Damme. "From the very beginning of the corona crisis, we knew that this would be the challenge: how do you let people gather in crowded places in a safe way? Our survey of store staff also said the same thing: we want mandatory mouth masks in order to guarantee safety.”