The Netherlands does not intend to make face masks compulsory

Photo: EPA Minister Tamara van Ark

The Netherlands has no plans to make non-medical face masks compulsory because there is no scientific evidence to prove they work, government officials said. The masks are compulsory in shops and indoors in many parts of Europe, but in the Netherlands they are only required on public transport.

“The 1.5 metre rule is the most important measure we have”, healthcare minister Tamara van Ark told reporters on Wednesday. “From a medical point of view, there is no reason to introduce a national requirement to wear masks. But mayors want local leeway to influence behaviour, and that is what we are now looking at”, she added.

MPs had asked the cabinet’s coronavirus Outbreak Management Team to look again at the evidence for using face masks, amid mounting calls for them to be introduced in public places. The decision to allow local regulations means the 25 local public safety boards will be able to experiment with masks, if they feel their use is necessary.

Rotterdam and Amsterdam, where the infection rate is rising fastest, are likely to take this step, Dutch media said. However, the legal contours of regional laws still have to be worked out. Publicity campaigns and approaches to specific groups, such as returning holidaymakers and students, will also be part of efforts to halt the rise in Covid-19 infections.

Jaap van Dissel, chief epidemiologist with the public health institute RIVM told reporters that he did not think face masks would stop the rise in infection clusters. ”Most new infections stem from family events, student parties and barbecues, places where face masks would not have an effect,” he said.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

Similar articles

  • Spain orders nationwide curfew to stem virus outbreak

    Spain orders nationwide curfew to stem virus outbreak

    Spain’s PM Pedro Sanchez on Sunday declared a national state of emergency that includes an overnight curfew in hopes of not repeating the near collapse of the country’s hospitals, news wires reported. Sanchez said the decision to restrict free movement on the streets of Spain between 11 p.m.-6 a.m. allows exceptions for commuting to work, buying medicine, and caring for elderly and young family members. He said the curfew takes effect on Sunday night and would likely remain in place for six months.

  • Italy’s PM Conte signs new emergency decree

    Italy’s PM Conte signs new emergency decree

    Italian PM Giuseppe Conte on Sunday signed a new package of anti-coronavirus measures, including the mandatory closure of all bars and restaurants by 6 pm, dpa reported. Conte's decree also shuts down cinemas, theatres, gyms and swimming pools, ski resorts, concert halls, trade fairs and conferences. Museums are to remain open, but with limits on visitor numbers.