Plain clothes policemen must be deployed on public transport to make sure passengers are wearing coronavirus masks, trade unions in Belgium said on Monday.
The ACV Public Services union said that drivers’ safety could be at risk if they confronted passengers ignoring the mask order, an offence which is punishable by a €250 fine (about £225).
Drivers on the De Lijn company’s buses and trams frequently spot maskless passengers, despite rising infection rates and masks being compulsory on public transport since May 4. Children under 12 do not have to wear the masks.
Jo Van der Herten, from ACV, told the Brussels Times that undercover officers in civilian clothes would be more effective than uniformed police.
“When people see a police uniform, they are naturally inclined to put on that face mask immediately, just as you drive slower when you see police on the road,” he said.
Plain clothes policemen would be able to report offenders on the spot, he added.
De Lijn, a major Belgian public transport company, raised the issue with police after the union demanded stricter enforcement.
Belgium’s crisis centre warned on Monday that “the virus is circulating intensively on our territory again”.
The average number of infections rose to 491 a day between July 24 and 30, the Sciensano Public Health Institute said, which is an increase of 68 percent from the previous week.
Belgium has tightened its coronavirus restrictions in response to the increasing infection rates. Masks were made compulsory in shops and on certain busy or narrow streets.
Passengers on Belgium’s railways also face fines. In July, police warned that fines would be levied on trains after a two month period of relative leniency, which focused more on raising awareness.
In July, a bus driver in Bayonne, France, was attacked and left brain dead after he confronted a group of passengers without masks.