BRUSSELS: The wearing of face masks in public is compulsory in the Brussels region from Wednesday (Aug 12), regional authorities announced, as Belgium battles one of the most serious coronavirus outbreaks in Europe.
Face masks were already required in most closed public spaces since Jul 11 for people aged 12 and over.
The measure was extended in the 19 municipalities of the Brussels region after the threshold of 50 daily cases per 100,000 people was crossed, the regional government said in a statement.
Everybody in the city, which has a population of 1.2 million, now has to wear a face mask when in parks, on streets or in any other public sites, as well as in private space accessible to the public, the regional government said.
The mask-wearing regulation is one of the strictest currently applied in European capitals and follows a similar decision by authorities in Madrid in July. In Paris face masks are mandatory outdoors only in crowded places.
Belgium has been hit hard by the pandemic, with nearly 10,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus so far, which gives the country of 11 million one of the world's highest death rates from COVID-19 per head.
Infections have been rising steadily in recent weeks and it now has one of the highest number of cases per inhabitants of any European country.
On Tuesday the country had on average more than 60 daily cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last two weeks, compared to 7.5 in Italy, 13 in Germany, 29 in France and 90 in Spain, according to figures collected by the European Union's public health body, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Last week the British government said it would impose a quarantine on people arriving from Belgium.
Children below the age of 12, people doing sport or physical works in public places are exempt from wearing a mask.