Make face masks mandatory on public transport, urges advisory group
The wearing of face masks may soon become mandatory in public transport across the Netherlands, according to a letter addressed to the cabinet by the National Public Transport Council (NOVB) on Friday. The advisory board is made up of representatives from the national, provincial, and local governments, regional and city public transit firms, and national railway NS.
As Dutch civil services weigh up their options for transitioning into a 1.5-meter society, the NOVB concedes that physical distancing will prove impossible for the county's train, bus, tram and metro systems, and that therefore new methods ought to be considered by the national authorities.
"With a strict 1.5 [meter] regime, the maximum capacity of public transport vehicles is simply insufficient for the expected, growing demand for public transit with all its consequences," the letter cautions. As a result, and after exploring examples from other countries, the NOVB has called on government to put together a "clear cabinet message regarding the use of protective equipment in public transport, for staff and travelers".
The Dutch government and public health agency RIVM have not encouraged the widespread use of medical masks to protect the supply of the material, and to prevent people from being lulled into a false sense of security.
But in order to scale up public transportation, the NOVB says that medical masks, facial protection, and other personal protective equipment may be necessary for passengers and workers. It also believes that staff in the public transportation sector must be added to the list of people who have priority access to Covid-19 testing, and that more work needs to be done to evaluate the capacity of stations when transferring between vehicles is most likely.
The organization says public transit vehicles hit capacity too quickly when the number of passengers onboard is reduced to create space for the physical distancing measures. The advisory council also pointed out "social insecurity and enforcement problems" on vehicles, at stops, and at stations, saying the unrest is frequently "due to unclear regulations."
As more sectors restart, particularly in secondary and higher education, the government's approach to spreading out passengers will need to be more clear, they argue. The council also calls on government to explore ways to prevent people from taking purely leisurely or unnecessary trips.
The NOVB says that it will continue work to develop a protocol for passengers, including one-way walking routes and clear directions. "And this also includes creating good instructions and possible teaching methods about how to use this protective equipment, and proper waste collection," the NOVB says.