Virologist calls on Flemings to continue to wear face coverings at busy places

From today rules on the wearing of face coverings in Flanders have been greatly relaxed. Nevertheless, the virologist Steven Van Gucht has called on Flemings to still carry a face covering with them and to wear it at places where face coverings are no longer mandatory if they see that it is particularly busy there. 

Speaking at Friday morning’s public health science institute Sciensano press conference, Professor Van Gucht said “When you go out of your front door don’t only just take your keys and your wallet with you, but also your face covering. This will enable you to protect yourself and others at places where it can be useful to do so”.

While, face coverings remain mandatory on public transport, at (health) care institutions and when visiting non-medical contact professionals (hairdressers, nail bars, tattoo artists…), in Flanders they are no longer mandatory when visiting shops, bars and restaurants.

Nevertheless, Steven Van Gucht says that we shouldn’t dispose of our face coverings just yet.

"It is still a good idea to wear a mask when you are in close contact with older or vulnerable people or are at busy places indoors such as when you go to the bakers’ on a Sunday morning”.

"Also if you have a mild complaint with just one symptom it is advisable to wear a face covering. If you only have a headache, a sore throat or a runny nose it remains a good idea to wear a face covering when in the company of others and if possible, to work from home”.

"A coronavirus test is not required if you only have one mild symptom. However, if you have a persistent cough, pain when breathing or have a combination of several symptoms such as a sore throat and a runny nose it is advisable to test and quarantine straight away”. 

Optimism

Professor Van Gucht went on to say that the figures relating to the pandemic are moving in the right direction. The number of positive tests and hospitalisations is falling slightly. “Also, among children between the ages of 0 and 9 the number of new infections appears to be stabilising or even falling”.

"The number of outbreaks in Dutch-medium schools is falling, while in French-medium education it is rising slightly. Currently, the impact of the new school year seems have remained limited especially in Flanders. We have no indication that schools are an important catalyser for the pandemic”’, Professor Van Gucht told the press conference.

"We are following what were the most optimistic forecasts. This is good news, but the pandemic isn’t over yet.”

"The European forecasters say that it is dangerous to relax all the measures this autumn in areas that have only an average or low vaccination rate. This could result in the hospitals becoming overstretched again. This means that it is very important that we do all we can to increase the vaccination rate in Brussels and Wallonia”.

Unlike in Flanders the rules on face coverings remain uncharged in Wallonia and in Brussels. 

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