The threat of the new corona virus means more and more people in Belgium are wearing a mouth mask. Unions representing customs officers requested it as a precaution for people working at the airport where they already wore gloves.
Francis Adyns, spokesperson of the finance department, queries the point of wearing a mask for officers checking goods: “If only to reassure staff, the management decided to go ahead with the measure.”
Masks are also being worn in shops with many Chinese customers, though so far no cases have been reported in Belgium.
Flemish virologist Paul Van Ranst (Leuven University) believes wearing a mask in Belgium is pointless: “The virus isn’t present here. If a case were to emerge, it would be an isolated case and there wouldn’t be a risk. Wearing masks in Belgium is pointless.”
In Leuven the Chinese students’ union has cancelled lunar New Year’s celebrations. The union just thought it wouldn’t be appropriate.
“They could hardly sing and dance and make merry with their fellow countrymen in a rather special situation” said Wim Pollet. Students studying business at Kortrijk and Bruges won’t now be going on their China trip.
In China supplies of mouth masks are running low. In Belgium too there is great demand among people of Chinese heritage, who are sending the masks to their kin in China. Some Belgian chemists are through their stocks.
Paper masks are little help because the virus can still pass along the sides. Only professional and more expensive masks that are well-fitting may help.