Corona in brief: Facemasks arrive, second wave, the right to protest

Summary

The long promised facemasks for every citizen will be available from next week, while a leading virologist says we’re not ready for the second wave of Covid-19, and the National Security Council considers banning protests

A mask on every face

The reusable facemasks ordered by the government for Belgian residents have finally arrived and are being distributed to pharmacies now. Anyone with a Belgian electronic ID card can pick up their free facemask at any pharmacy. Every resident is entitled to one.

But not quite yet. The masks (pictured) will be available by Monday, 15 June, but in order to avoid a stampede, they are being allocated daily according to age. Only those aged 75 and over can claim their masks on Monday. On Tuesday, those aged 67 and over can claim their masks.

After that, the dates and age ranges are as follows:

  • 60 on Wednesday 17
  • 55 on Thursday 18
  • 50 on Friday 19
  • 45 on Monday 22
  • 40 on Tuesday 23
  • 35 on Wednesday 24
  • 30 on Thursday 25
  • Younger than 30 from Friday 26

Children are allowed to get one of the masks as well as long as they have a kidsID. A single adult can pick up masks for the whole family as long as they are in possession of their ID cards and the ages of the family members match the dates available (for kids, that’s not until 26 June).

For those with underlying medical conditions, masks can be picked up from the first day upon presentation of a prescription for the medication being taken. The masks are washable but come with an anti-bacterial layer, so should be washed by hand in lukewarm water.

‘Not ready’ for the second wave

Belgium, meanwhile, is not prepared for a second wave of Covid-19, according to a report by GEES, the expert committee advising the federal government on the coronavirus exit strategy. The committee was critical of the country’s efforts in terms of testing, contact-tracing and preparing the healthcare system for a possible resurgence.

According to the report, contact-tracing “suffered from an extremely low success rate from the start” and that “improvements are slow”. The committee said that resources and budgets needed to be allocated now to preparing for a second wave.

Black Lives Matter

Demonstrations will be on the agenda at the next meeting of the Security Council, following the weekend’s many Black Lives Matter protests, which brought 14,000 into the streets. A statement from the prime minister’s office reads: “Just as the Security Council has looked into the resumption of various social, cultural and economic activities, it will soon define rules with regard to public protests, in order to balance freedom of expression with health requirements and the management of public order.”

Organisers of the Black Lives Matter protests handed out facemasks and urged participants to respect social distancing. In Brussels, however, 10,000 people showed up, so that was impossible. It was not an option to postpone the actions for several months as they are in response to the death of another black person at the hands of white police officers in the United States and are in solidary with the protests there.

“Everyone wore a facemask and was careful,” said footballer François Kompany, who took part in the protest on Sunday in Brussels. “It was really telling that so many people showed up despite the coronavirus. That means that the gathering was really necessary and time for us to make ourselves heard. The injustice just needs to stop.”

Photo courtesy VRT