How to protect yourself against omicron? [8 pictograms]  Get booster vaccine. Restrict contacts. Wear a face mask. Ventilate indoor areas. Use self-tests. Keep your distance. Follow the rules on working from home. Follow quarantine and isolation rules.

Face masks. I protect you, you protect me

Wearing a face mask protects you and others from the spread of the coronavirus. It is one of the healthy reflexes that protects us all from the virus. You use a face mask to cover your nose and mouth. When you sneeze, cough or talk, droplets fly around. The face mask blocks the droplets. That way, there is less risk of making someone sick. In other words, wearing a face mask is primarily about protecting others.

Where do you wear a face mask?

Everyone from the age of 6 is strongly advised to cover their mouth and nose with a face mask in all situations where it is impossible to ensure compliance with the rules of social distancing (unless stated otherwise).

In certain places, however, wearing a face mask remains mandatory:

  • on public transport from entering the indoor areas of the airport, the station, on the platform or a bus, (pre-)metro, tram, train stop or any other means of transport organised by a public authority. Public transport operators and all bus operators carrying out public transport services are not required to cover their nose and mouth, insofar as the driver is well-isolated in a cabin on the one hand, and a poster and/or sticker indicates to users the reason why the driver is not wearing a mask on the other;
  • in the confined spaces of organised collective transport (i.e. transport organised in advance with a clear itinerary or final destination and a vehicle with at least 9+1 seats (passengers + driver)), this does not apply to public transport operators, insofar as the driver is well-isolated in a cabin on the one hand, and a poster and/or sticker indicates to users the reason why the driver is not wearing a mask on the other;
  • in establishments and places where close-contact professions are carried out. This applies to service providers and customers where there is direct physical contact between the service provider and the customer or where the distance of 1.5 metres cannot be guaranteed between the service provider and the customer for a duration of at least 15 minutes;
  • the publicly accessible areas of companies, associations and services;
  • the publicly accessible areas of commercial establishments, shops and shopping centres;
  • libraries, game and multimedia libraries;
  • in areas accessible to the public of establishments belonging to the cultural, festive, sports, recreational and event sectors, including fitness centres;
  • in places of worship and buildings intended for the public practice of non-denominational moral services;
  • when moving around in public and non-public parts of courthouses and courtrooms and, in other cases, in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the Chairman;
  • the publicly accessible areas of government buildings;
  • establishments and places where catering activities are permitted, both for staff and those customers who are not seated at a table or at the bar;
  • locations where authorised private gatherings and activities in an organised context take place with more than 50 people indoors or 100 people outdoors;
  • venues for events of any size, including mass events and authorised sports competitions;
  • trade fairs, including exhibitions;
  • other locations where access is organised in accordance with the Cooperation Agreement of 14 July 2021 with regard to the CST.

Face masks may be removed occasionally whilst eating and drinking, and when it is impossible to wear one due to the nature of the activity.

Wearing face masks

Wearing a face mask only helps if you put it on/take it off, wear it, wash it and store it correctly. So keep this in mind.

Putting on the face mask

  • First wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Then put on your face mask. Only touch the ribbon or elastic band.
  • Put the mask over your nose first. Attach the top ribbon securely.
  • Pull the mask over your chin. Attach the bottom ribbon.
  • Your nose, mouth and chin should be under the mask. There should be no opening at the sides.

Wearing the face mask

  • Are you wearing the face mask? Do not touch it any more.
  • Is your mask not on properly? Then touch only the sides and adjust it.
  • Do not continually take your mask on and off.

Taking off the face mask

  • Only touch the ribbon or elastic band.
  • Have you taken it off? Then wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Do you need to take off the mask for a moment? For example, to drink something. Then place it in a clean spot or put it in a bag that lets air through. Then clean the spot where you placed the mask.

When should you use a new face mask?

  • Use a new face mask every 8 hours.
  • Is the mask dirty or damp? Then use a new mask straight away.
  • Do you need to talk a lot? Use a new face mask every 4 hours. For example: for a teacher in the classroom. How do you wash a face mask?
  • Place used face masks in a sealed cloth bag. Wash the bag with the mask.
  • Wash it with detergent in the washing machine at 60°C with the rest of the laundry. Please note: The free face mask that you can pick up at the pharmacy has an antibacterial layer. This layer cannot be washed at 60°C and cannot be ironed either. You need to wash these face masks by hand at a maximum temperature of 30°C, for no more than 30 washes. You can find more information here.
  • Or boil it in a cooking pot. Only use the cooking pot for the face masks.
  • Have you washed the face mask at too low a temperature? Then iron it at a high temperature.
  • Have you touched a dirty mask? For example, to put it in the washing machine. Then definitely wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Do you want to use the mask again? The mask has to be completely dry first. You therefore need two masks.

How do you store a clean face mask?

  • Put the cloth bag with the face masks in the same, clean place.
  • Do you want to use a clean mask? Then wash your hands first. Only pick up the mask by the ribbons or elastic bands.
  • Do not put your mask in the fridge or freezer. The cold does not kill the virus. The mask might contaminate your food.

Frequently asked questions

    What are the recommendations for wearing face masks in public places ?
    Wearing a mask is recommended for all persons who can use it correctly when in close contact (less than 1.5 meters) with other people. It is even more recommended in the case of contact with a weak person.
    What protection does a face mask offer?
    Wearing a face mask is not primarily about protecting yourself, but rather about protecting others. Conversely, you are also protected if others around you are wearing a face mask.
    For how long can I wear a face mask before I have to change it?
    The face mask should be replaced every 8 hours or every 4 hours if it is used “intensively” (for example, a teacher in a classroom) or if it gets wet or visibly dirty. The face mask should be washed at 60° after every use.
    How should I put on the mask?
    • Before putting on the face mask, wash your hands thoroughly. • Only touch the elastic bands or ribbons when putting on your mask. • The face mask should cover your nose, mouth and chin and must be securely attached at the sides. • Begin putting on your mask from the top, with a snug fit to your nose. Fasten it below while covering your chin.
    How should I take off the mask?
    • When taking off your mask, only touch its elastic bands or ribbons. • Once you have taken it off, wash your hands thoroughly. • If you need to take the mask off for a short time (to drink, for example), then place it on a clean surface that you can easily sanitise afterwards or place it in a hermetically sealed bag.
    How should I wear a mask?
    • As soon as you have put on your face mask, you should avoid touching it. • If your mask slips down or is not well fastened, then only touch the sides to reposition it. • Avoid putting your mask on and taking it off too often.
    Can I wear the face mask around my neck for a while, to take a drink for example?
    No, because of the risk of contamination. If the mask needs to be removed, for example for a drink, then place it on a clean surface that can be sanitised afterwards. You can also hold it by the ribbons or elastic bands.
    How can I wear a mask if I have a beard and/or moustache?
    Since a face mask serves to protect others, it is not very important if the mask does not fit your face perfectly. Therefore, it is not necessary to shave your beard or moustache.
    What should I do if I have to cough or sneeze when wearing a face mask?

    You can cough in the mask. If you have to sneeze:

    • preferably take off the mask first;
    • sneeze into a paper handkerchief, which you then throw away;
    • put the mask back on after washing your hands. If this is not possible, the face mask must be removed if it is wet or dirty.
    How do I make my own fabric face mask?

    Use the following tips:

    • The most important criterion for your fabric face mask is that it covers the nose, mouth and chin.
    • Use thickly woven fabrics, which provide the best protection.
    • Use 2 to 3 layers of fabric.
    • Use fabrics that are easy to breathe through, such as cotton.
    • Using a filter in your face mask can improve its filter capacity, but it can also make it harder to breathe through. This also makes it harder to wear this mask for a long time. Read all the information on how to use a filter correctly, here (Dutch/French only)
    • Use fabrics you can wash at 60°C.
    • Avoid using fabrics that are too stiff, too warm or irritating.
    • Use two different colours so you can easily see which is the inside of your mask and which is the outside.
    • Choose your face mask in line with what you are going to use it for. A face mask with elastic bands is easier, but also more unpleasant if you have to wear it for a long time. If you need to wear the face mask for a long time, you could opt for one with fabric ribbons. If you only wear the face mask to do some shopping, you could opt for one with elastic bands.
    • Ideally, avoid vertical seams in the middle of your mask.
    • Wash your hands carefully before you start making your face mask.
    • Wash the fabric before and after making your face mask. Pre-wash the fabric, because fabrics can shrink in the wash.
    • Keep your face mask in a clean, sheltered place.

    You can use one of the models below:

    These models were validated by the Risk Management Group, based on the advice from a group comprising experts from Sciensano, the Supreme Health Council, FAMHP, RAG and the FPS Public Health.

    What model can I use to make a fabric face mask?

    There are various models available. We particularly recommend the following models:

    These models were validated by the Risk Management Group, based on the advice from a group comprising experts from Sciensano, the Supreme Health Council, FAMHP, RAG and the FPS Public Health.

    How do you wash a fabric mask?
    • The face mask should be replaced every 8 hours or every 4 hours if it is used “intensively” (for example, a teacher in a classroom) or if it gets wet or visibly dirty. • The face mask should be washed after every use. • The face mask should be washed using detergent in the washing machine at 60°C with the rest of the washing, or it can be boiled in a cooking pot that is only being used for this purpose. If you wash the mask at too low a temperature, for example if you wash it by hand, then you should iron it at a high temperature afterwards. • After touching a dirty mask, for example to put it in the washing machine, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly. • The mask must be completely dry before you can use it again. It is therefore recommended to have a minimum of two masks.
    How do you store a clean face mask?
    Do not leave your face mask lying around at home. Choose a permanent, clean place for your clean masks. Do not touch the clean face mask once this has been washed and never touch it on the inside. Do not put your mask in the fridge or freezer. The cold will not kill the virus and the mask will risk infecting your food.
    How do you store a used face mask before washing it?
    Do not leave your face mask lying around at home. Store your used face masks in a sealed fabric bag that you wash along with the mask. Never touch the face mask on the inside. Do not put your mask in the fridge or freezer. The cold will not kill the virus and the mask will risk infecting your food.
    What is a comfort mask or cloth mouth-nose mask?
    A comfort mask or cloth mouth-nose mask is reusable. Such a fabric mouth-nose mask should be washed daily so that bacteria cannot multiply on that mask. You can easily make a fabric mouth-nose mask yourself. Wearing such mask protects others in the first place. Conversely, the wearer is protected if the people around him or her are also wearing a mouth-nose mask. A mouth-nose mask only provides optimal protection if it is worn correctly. In addition, the other rules such as washing your hands and keeping your distance remain important, even when wearing a nasal mask.
    What is a medical or surgical mouth-nose mask?
    A medical or surgical mouth-nose mask is a disposable mask. A surgical mask is thoroughly tested and vetted. It protects others first and foremost. Conversely, the wearer is protected if the people around him or her are also wearing a mouth-nose mask. A mouth-nose mask only provides optimal protection if it is worn correctly. In addition, the other rules such as washing your hands and keeping your distance remain important, even when wearing a nasal mask.
    What is a FFP2 mask?
    An FFP2 mask is a disposable mask. When used correctly, an FFP2 mask should fit closely to the face and also stops aerosols, the tiny droplets floating in the air. An FFP2 mask protects the user from airborne pathogens. For this reason, it is mainly used by medical personnel who often come into contact with corona patients. For civilians, an FFP2 mask is usually not necessary. A mouth-nose mask only provides optimal protection if it is worn correctly. In addition, the other rules such as washing your hands and keeping your distance remain important, even when wearing a mouth-nose mask.
    In what cases is an FFP2 mask recommended?
    In quarantine and isolation, an FFP2 mask is recommended but not required: https://www.info-coronavirus.be/en/news/imc-0401/
    The Consultation Committee recommends the use of FFP2 masks for vulnerable persons: https://www.info-coronavirus.be/en/news/occ-2212/