As long as there is no effective treatment or vaccine, we have to learn to live with the virus. To slow down the spread of the infection among the general population, and to protect vulnerable people, it is important to adopt a certain number of protective measures - in addition to wearing a mask.
The most important thing is to regularly wash your hands thoroughly.
Cough and sneeze into your elbow crease, or into a paper handkerchief that you then throw away in a lidded bin.
Avoid shaking hands or kissing.
Limit close contact with people who are ill by staying at least 2 metres away from them.
Avoid touching your face with your hands as much as possible.
And try to limit travel as much as possible.
Wearing a mask and social distancing
Wearing a mask is mandatory:
- in all circumstances for activities open to the public that are circulating and which are taking place in a closed place (e.g. in administrations open to the public, shops and supermarkets), as well as on public transport.
- for any gathering of people that brings together more than 4 people at the same time, either in a closed area or in the open air.
In addition to wearing a mask, a physical distance of at least 2 metres is compulsory for gatherings of between 4 and 10 people. This obligation does not apply to people who are part of the same household or who live together.
In addition to the obligation of wearing a mask and maintaining a physical distance of at least 2 metres, the assignment of seats is compulsory for gatherings of more than 10 and up to 100 people.
Are not subject to the obligation to wear a mask and to physical distancing:
- Children under 6 years of age;
- Persons with disabilities, who are exempted from the obligation to wear a mask;
- Speakers and religious actors during the exercise of their professional activities;
- Theatre and film actors, musicians, dancers as long as they exercise their professional artistic activity;
- People practicing sports.
The obligation of physical distance also does not apply to outdoor markets and public transport users.
The obligation to be assigned seats does not apply in the context of the freedom to demonstrate, nor at funerals, markets, museums and art centres, nor in the context of sports activities.
When to wear a mask?
It is compulsory to cover your nose and mouth with a mask, scarf or bandana on public transport and for activities that are open to the public (shops, counters, recycling centres, museums, libraries or markets).
Wearing a mask is also compulsory for gatherings of more than 4 people indoors or outdoors, unless these people live in the same household.
In some sectors, these provisions may be more restrictive.
Non-compliance with the wearing of a mask and/or distance between seats is an offence punishable by a fine.
Which safety mask should I choose?
There are high-performance filter masks available that filter at least 80% of aerosols, or even almost 100%. These are the FFP masks, with FFP2 and FFP3 being the safest. These respiratory protection masks also protect against the risk of droplet transmission. They are used by people who have to work closely with other people or with people at risk. The FFP2 and FFP3 type masks are in principle reserved for health professionals or vulnerable people as well as people who have tested positive.
Surgical masks can also be used, which are anti-projection masks. These medical masks are very effective against the projection of droplets from the person wearing the mask and others. However, they are less effective against the inhalation of small airborne particles. This type of mask is recommended for people who present symptoms in order to prevent any contagion of those around them, but anyone, even healthy people, can use this type of mask.
Fabric masks are also available. These masks can be used by healthy people with no symptoms. A scarf or bandana can also be used as a mask.
Who doesn't need to wear the mask?
Children under 6 years of age are not obliged to wear a mask. No child needs to wear the mask when participating in formal or non-formal educational activities.
Persons with special needs, who, because of their disability, cannot wear a mask, do not fall under this obligation, provided that they put other sanitary measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus. A medical certificate will attest to the impossibility of wearing the mask.
Public transport drivers do not need to wear the mask when the distance between them and users is at least two metres or when they are separated by a panel.
When an activity cannot be performed because of the mask (e.g. facial care), other sanitary measures must be put in place to avoid contagion. Thus, the professional may wear a visor in combination with the mask or wear an FFP2 mask when taking care of the client.
Religious, cultural and sports actors are also exempted from wearing masks while carrying out their activities.
Can plastic visors replace masks?
No, plastic visors are used to protect the eyes, but not the nose or mouth. Therefore, a visor alone cannot provide efficient protection against coronavirus.
How to handle masks?
Disposable masks cannot be washed and have to be disposed of in a waste bin after having worn them for a maximum of 8 hours. The production and expiry dates marked on the boxes are printed according to the international format: year/month/day.
Handmade cloth masks, scarves or bandanas may on the other hand be worn more often, as long as they are washed at 60 degrees every day after use.
In order to get more information about the correct use of masks, please read our recommendations. For wearing a mask is merely a complementary means to barrier gestures which, although reducing the dissemination of droplets carrying the virus, can also present an additional risk of infection when not handled properly.
Is having a beard compatible with wearing a mask?
In any case, the mask must fit tightly on the face, otherwise its effectiveness is not guaranteed. The beard must be clean and tied up like hair if it is long. This applies to surgical or crafted (fabric) masks.
On the other hand, to guarantee the airtightness of the FFP2 mask - used by healthcare professionals - the beard must not protrude beyond the outlines of the mask.
Are gloves effective in protecting yourself against coronavirus?
In everyday activities, washing your hands regularly protects better against the coronavirus than wearing gloves. This is because gloves do not limit surface-to-surface transmission of the virus. Thus, if you touch coronavirus-contaminated surfaces or objects with your gloves on, the virus will contaminate your gloves and then contaminate surfaces and personal items (keys, phone, bag or wallet, etc.) when handling them.
The hydro-alcoholic solution does not disinfected gloves effectively. In addition, you shouldn't underestimate the risk of transferring the virus to your hands when taking off your gloves.
Overall, there are many disadvantages to wearing gloves:
- It gives a false sense of security and reduces the vigilance necessary for protective measures, which remain essential;
- It may increase coronavirus contamination;
- It has a negative impact on the environment as the majority of single-use gloves are neither recyclable nor biodegradable.
Under which circumstances is it useful to wear gloves?
Single-use gloves should only be worn by healthcare professionals when providing care that requires physical, skin-to-skin contact with people who are potentially infected (with coronavirus or other infectious agents). Wearing gloves in the healthcare sector is indispensable for regular and correct hand hygiene. Other than in the context of providing health care to a person with an infectious disease, the use of gloves is not recommended. Single-use gloves are not intended for use in everyday activities.