Brussels "COVID boys" take on mission to police pandemic rules


A pair of recently-jobless men, calling themselves the "COVID boys", patrols in central Brussels to give advice about social distancing and mask wearing, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Belgium January 20, 2021. Picture taken January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Johanna Geron

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Two Belgian men left unemployed by the coronavirus pandemic have reinvented themselves as the "COVID boys", disinfecting public surfaces and patrolling Brussels to encourage social distancing and mask wearing.

Edouard de Vos, 27, and Oscar Briou, 26, have stationed themselves in the centre of the Belgian capital dressed in chemical protection suits and gloves and armed with disinfectant, tape measures, sponges and a touch of humour.

Both lost their jobs in Belgium's initial lockdown from March.

"We spent the first lockdown drinking and doing random things. At one point something happened to us and things became clear," de Vos, who had been working in a soap factory, told Reuters television. "And at this point, we started organising ourselves."

The pair advise a couple with food that they should sit or stand to the side rather than walk while eating and remind passers-by that their masks, which are mandatory throughout Brussels, need to cover their noses.

"Yes, you're right. It's true. Sometimes we do forget," one woman replies.

De Vos, 27, and Briou, 26, wipe down the screens of parking meters, spray disinfectant on the hands of a pedestrian after he adjusts his mask. They are also training two new recruits.

Brussels police, asked to comment on the duo's activities, said: "Offering advice is fine, but it is better coming from official channels".

Belgium is among the European countries hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 20,000 fatalities and nearly 700,000 confirmed cases.

(Reporting by Bart Biesemans and Clement Rossignol, writing by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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