Amsterdam face mask fines to cost €395; Nobody penalized yet
Violations of rules mandating that people wear face masks in certain parts of Amsterdam could result in a 395 euro fine, Mayor Femke Halsema told City Council on Thursday. So far, no fines have been handed out, even though compliance with the law, in place since August 5, has been spotty.
Those not wearing masks will be given a warning. Violators can that be fined first for not adhering to social distancing rules, and then for failure to follow a public official's directive, she said. Administrative fees could push the total cost over four hundred euros.
Mask-wearing is required on the street and in shops in five Amsterdam neighborhoods, including parts of the Wallen including the Red Light District, on the Nieuwendijk and Kalverstraat shopping streets, and in the open-air market areas of Plein '40 - '45 and Albert Cuypstraat.
"Why are mouth masks mandatory on the market on the Albert Cuyp and not in the Albert Heijn, when you stumble over people there, and hardly anyone walks on the Albert Cuyp anymore," said the local leader of nationalist party FvD, Annabel Nanninga. However, she stopped short of saying the face mask rule should be expanded to cover more situations, instead deferring instead to the national government.
The mask rule was ordered by the Amsterdam-Amstelland Security Region, which Halsema also chairs, as a way to slow the spread of coronavirus infections. The order was set to expire at the end of August.
While mask rules could be expanded or extended, it would only be considered in specific circumstances. "A citywide face mask mandate is not on the table," she told the council meeting.
Multilingual Covid-19 communication is badly needed: Council member
The city's multicultural character was an important issue regarding compliance with coronavirus rules, said DENK council member Numan Yilmaz. "Communication must be geared towards this more intensively, and in different languages. People who do not speak the Dutch language are not aware of the measures," he said.
Yilmaz also pointed out that the city is home to immigrants with and without legal residence, refugees, and people who are illiterate.
"I have been abroad for several months and when I came back I was really amazed," he said of the city's communication strategy. "There was little information and communication here."
Halsema disputed this assessment, saying that an "enormous" communications effort was "in all languages, in all city districts, on matrix boards, on flyers. People were stationed everywhere to start a conversation." She argued that instead, "We see that people are just listening less, and do not really feel like [following the rules] anymore."
Stricter measures not addressing family coronavirus clusters
Halsema's plan to address the rising number of coronavirus infections in by telling foreign and domestic tourists to stay away from Amsterdam, and by threatening new limits on the catering industry, made little sense to local conservative VVD party leader Marianne Poot. She pointed out that family gatherings have been linked to an increasing number of coronavirus clusters, where three or more people were likely to infect each other.
"Why not opt for communicating in places where people come together? That's strange and I really want clarification about that," she said.
On the other hand, socialist party (SP) leader Erik Flentge argued that there was a need for stricter measures against tourism, but that there was little Halsema could do about it. "Budget flights are permitted. Travelers do not have to [get tested for the viral infections]. I find that irritating. Everyone all comes together in this city, at the stations, for example," he said.
Halsema did say that she agreed that city council should have more input in any new measures. At the same time, there were no plans to implement a curfew as a way of getting people off the street.
Some mistakes were made over the past six months, Halsema said. The city government worked hard to resolve those issues quickly. "If those are the biggest mistakes, then we can also say that a lot has gone well in a large and densely populated city."