Not just on the bus: Belgium's new mask rule
After weeks of discussion, wearing a mask became compulsory in Belgian shops, cinemas and other enclosed spaces on Saturday. The decision was taken on Thursday evening by the Council of Ministers, supplemented by regional representatives. In other countries such as France and Switzerland masks must only be worn on public transport - as was previously the case in Belgium. What changes will the new rule bring?
Le Soir welcomes the measure:
“We wrote three weeks ago that the obligation to wear a mask would be the best decision for the prime minister and her entourage. Even if this measure comes too late and was taken reluctantly - and despite the botched communication - we must be thankful that it was taken at all and voice our respect. ... We must once again put our faith in the people's sense of responsibility, intelligence and common sense. Despite all the confusion in the political handling of the crisis in Belgium, we must not forget that the idea behind the obligation to wear a mask is not to annoy people or make things difficult for businesses and cinemas. It's about acting responsibly.”
A welcome equaliser
Making wearing a mask compulsory rather than an option depoliticises the decision, philosopher Barbara Bleisch points out in the Tages-Anzeiger:
“The call to deprive everyone of their free choice in the matter is justified by the fact that the obligation to wear a mask creates total equality. ... Those wearing one will no longer stand out on public transport. Until now, wearing facial protection amounted to a clear statement. Because few people did it, it meant either that they belonged to a risk group and had to reckon with pitying looks or it was a statement of belief: I believe the pandemic is dangerous, I trust the statistics, I vow to behave in a way that will not harm others. Meaning that until now, paradoxically, wearing a mask actually unmasked our condition and our convictions.”