Wearing a mask will be compulsory in all Belgian shops, cinemas, museums and libraries from this Saturday, 11 July, it has been announced.

Theatres, concert halls, conference venues and places of worship are also included in the new rules, which apply to anyone aged 12 and over.

The list of applicable venues may change over time, depending on the coronavirus situation in Belgium.

A committee of Belgium’s various levels of government made the decision on Thursday after receiving advice from the expert panel in charge of the coronavirus exit strategy.

A ministerial decree will soon confirm the sanctions for non-compliance, as well as measures allowing for venues to be closed down if they do not apply the rules.

Belgium’s Higher Health Council, the federal health ministry’s scientific advisory body, had this week strongly urged the federal government to make wearing a mask compulsory in shops.

The council said that the measure was necessary “to protect the population from the sometimes inappropriate behaviour of certain people who are not concerned about protecting themselves and others”.

Wearing a mask has, until now, been only “recommended” in shops and other public places where a safe distance cannot be guaranteed.

The formal requirement to wear a facemask has only applied to public transport including airports, and businesses where close contact is necessary, such as hairdressers.