“Face coverings can’t be made mandatory in local shops”: mayor overruled

The Governor of East Flanders Province intends to quash with immediate effect a decision by the Mayor of Deinze, Jan Vermeulen, to make the wearing of face coverings in supermarkets in the city obligatory.  The governor is acting at the insistence of interior minister De Crem.  Wearing face coverings are strongly recommended while shopping but not compulsory.

Deinze was set to become the first city to introduce such a requirement, but it’s not in the law that only strongly recommends the wearing in shops, but does allows shop owners to ask shoppers to wear one.

The Mayor of Deinze motivated his decision by pointing to the presence of a large number of care centres in his city, but interior minister De Crem insists that a stricter or more relaxed interpretation of this secondary piece of legislation isn’t routinely permitted. Stricter interpretation is only possible in exceptional circumstances, when local authorities can deviate from federal regulations, when a specific local situation requires this.  In such cases the local authorities must liaise with the federal government via the governor.

Interior minister De Crem has instructed the East Flanders governor to contact the Mayor of Deinze as the governor is required to supervise local authorities. The governor says citizens can’t understand why they don’t have to wear a face covering in say Aalter or Ghent, but would have to in nearby Deinze.

Speaking on Wednesday morning the mayor defended his decision: “If virologists say that wearing a face covering at the supermarket helps as a preventative measure, then it is my duty as mayor to protect our citizens”.

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