fps health belgium banner

Federal Government face masks: Practical guidelines

As of Monday 15 June, the Federal Government will start distributing fabric face masks to inhabitants. These masks are part of the relaxation of the lockdown measures. They will be available at your local pharmacy.

Who can pick up a fabric face mask?

  • 1 person can pick up the masks for the whole family. This limits the number of journeys and avoids queues at the pharmacy.
  • If you are unable to pick them up yourself, you can ask an informal caregiver, home nurse, GP, family care service or another home care provider to do it for you. Your care provider can simultaneously pick up their own masks for their own family.

What should you bring to the pharmacy to obtain your face masks?

The face masks are registered in the name of the family member (‘head of household’) who collects the masks for the whole family. It is important that you bring the right cards or documents.

  • Your local pharmacist will ask you for your eID and a family composition certificate (available from the e-Desk of your municipality) or the eID of the family members.
  • No eID? A Kids-ID or ISI+ card is also accepted.
  • A Social Security Identification Number (NISS/INSZ) or BIS number for non-Belgians is required for registration.
  • If you have none of the above, the local pharmacist may also rely on his knowledge of the family composition and his patient records.
  • An eID or any of the documents mentioned above are not required in special circumstances (homeless people, refugees): the pharmacist may give the person one face mask.

When can you pick up a fabric face mask?

The distribution of fabric face masks will take place in daily waves. A time frame of at least 10 working days is foreseen split by the year of birth of the ‘head of household’. For each day, the distribution is reserved for persons born in a given year or earlier and their family members living at home.

Distribution scheme

E.g.: Distribution starts on 15 June. Karin turns 75 in August but was born in 1945. She may pick up her mask from day 1.

  • Monday 15 June: people aged 75 and over (born in 1945 or earlier)
  • Tuesday 16 June: people aged 67 and over (born in 1953 or earlier)
  • Wednesday 17 June: people aged 60 and over (born in 1960 or earlier)
  • Thursday 18 June: people aged 55 and over (born in 1965 or earlier)
  • Friday 19 June: people aged 50 and over (born in 1970 or earlier)
  • Monday 22 June: people aged 45 and over (born in 1975 or earlier)
  • Tuesday 23 June: people aged 40 and over (born in 1980 or earlier)
  • Wednesday 24 June: people aged 35 and over (born in 1985 or earlier)
  • Thursday 25 June: people aged 30 and over (born in 1990 or earlier)
  • Friday 26 June: everyone

We work on the basis of your year of birth instead of age to avoid discussion about who has or has not had a birthday. We work cumulatively, so anyone can come from a certain day.

However:

  • People who have an urgent care appointment at the hospital or another healthcare provider, and
  • People with a chronic disease and/or who belong to one of the risk groups (lung disease, weak immune system, heart disease, diabetes, rare diseases, etc.) can receive their face masks earlier when picking up medication. The (local) pharmacist knows his customers.
  • People who have a prescription from their attending physician for a fabric mask can go to the pharmacy anytime.

Poster ‘One fabric face mask per inhabitant’ (FR)

Priority target groups

The distribution is based on an age criterion. This is a clear and verifiable fact to avoid any discussions. The oldest age group has priority as they are more vulnerable to coronavirus. In addition, the number of people with one or more chronic conditions increases with age. A large group of citizens with a chronic disease will therefore be quickly helped when we start the distribution from old to young.

Type of face mask and quality

There are different types of face masks on the market. As a wearer, it is important to inform oneself about the degree of protection they offer.

  • Homemade or comfort face masks are made according to different patterns which can be found on websites (e.g. https://makefacemasks.com/) and social media. These masks are not tested or standardised as their quality depends on the textile used. Therefore, the government decided to distribute two filters per inhabitant via municipalities. The municipalities organise the distribution of those filters to the citizens in many different ways and you can put them in your homemade mask afterwards. A face mask is worn to protect others.

  • The fabric face masks distributed via pharmacies:

    • complement existing protection measures to stop the spread of coronavirus;
    • are in accordance with the NBN standard, both in terms of filter capacity and breathing resistance;
    • are also intended for (healthy) people, who do not (yet) have and/or show clinical symptoms of an infection and who do not come into contact with people with such symptoms;
    • are available in one size and have a limited life span of 30 washes (see technical data sheet (FR));
    • are to be used in public places where you come into contact with other people and cannot respect the distance of 1.5 meters and when it is mandatory;
    • should not be used during physical activity;
    • have been subject to strict quality controls;
    • have been treated with SILVADUR 930™ antimicrobial containing the active substance silver nitrate. This treatment is authorised by the FPS Public Health;
    • are OEKO-TEX and REACH certified, i.e. harmless to skin, mucous membranes and lungs.

The masks are treated with the chemical Silvadur, which contains silver nitrate. This substance is permitted by law and does not pose a health hazard. Silver nitrate is often used in the textile industry to protect clothing against mould.

How to care for your face mask

You must always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. The face mask complies with the NBN standard. It consists of three layers, in line with the WHO advice of 5 June, and guarantees a correct filtering capacity.

In order to guarantee the effectiveness of your face mask and to disinfect it, wash it by hand at a maximum temperature of 30°C with a detergent. Rinse well afterwards and let it air dry. Do not iron it. You can also disinfect the mask by machine washing it at 60°C. In this case, the life span of 30 washes is no longer guaranteed.

For proper use and maintenance, always read the face mask’s user instructions (FR).

A face mask is worn to protect others.