Public health institute won't change its face masks advice yet
According to public health institute RIVM, there is no reason to make wearing masks compulsory outside public transport, because while there are indications that non-medical masks can stop coronavirus particles, there is still no hard evidence that their use in public spaces prevents infections, NOS reports.
This week there has been a lot of discussion about increasing the use of masks in the Netherlands. Mayors Femke Halsema of Amsterdam and Ahmed Aboutaleb of Rotterdam asked the government to consider it as the number of Covid-19 infections spiked over the past week. Four experts the Ministry of Public Health asked to evaluate the coronavirus policy, advised the Ministry to make masks compulsory in catering establishments and contact professions. And a majority in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, called for the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) to reevaluate its stance on masks.
The last time the OMT looked at masks was on June 23, after the World Health Organization (WHO) amended its advice on their use, according to NOS. "There is not yet sufficient scientific evidence to encourage the use of face masks in public spaces. In exceptional situations, consideration could be given to using non-medical face masks when it is not possible to follow general measures, such as in public transport," was the conclusion. According to the OMT, the available studies on how effective these masks are contradict each other.
The OMT did list both pros and cons for using masks. One pro is that masks could limit the spread of the virus a little, if worn by Covid-19 patients who don't have symptoms. They can also increase attention to basic rules. But on the con side, they could have the opposite effect - creating a false feeling of safety, resulting in wearers following other rules less well - a con Hubert Bruls of the Security Council also cited when he spoke out against Halsema and Aboutaleb's call.
The OMT's next meeting is scheduled for the end of August, though that might move up if the current spike in Covid-19 infections continues.
A spokesperson for the RIVM told NOS that it continuously evaluates new research on masks and how effective they are.