Face mask obligation needs to come from gov't, Amsterdam mayor says
Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Eindhoven urgently advise their residents to wear face masks in all publicly accessible indoor spaces. A mask obligation is difficult to implement on local level - such a measure would need to come from the national government to stand up in court - so this is just urgent advice, Amsterdam mayor and chairman of the Amsterdam-Amstelland security region Femke Halsema said on Monday evening on Op1.
Halsema said she obtained legal advice about implementing a mask obligation in her region and found that doing so would probably end up with the security region or municipality taken to court. If masks are made mandatory, the national government will have to do it.
The Amsterdam mayor also said that she is not waiting for hard evidence that masks are effective against the coronavirus, calling the advice to wear masks a precautionary principle. "Any measure that can help, that can prevent us from closing cafes and theaters, let us do it and evaluate later whether it helped.
The government advised wearing face masks in shops in Amsterdam, Rotterdam in The Hague. The mayors of the four large cities, also the chairpersons of the local security regions, decided to go a step further. This extra step is needed due to the high number of Covid-19 infections in the cities, Halsema said. The advice for wearing a mask applies to shops, catering establishments, museums, libraries and government buildings.
While Halsema announced the advice on behalf of all four security regions on Monday, the other three mayors also confirmed their support for this measure in the media.
"I believe that wearing face masks in places where many people get together, such as supermarkets, hardware stores and garden centers is useful," Eindhoven mayor and chairman of Veiligheidsregio Brabant-Zuidoost John Jorritsma said in a statement. "Not because of medical reasons, but because of the signal value it emits."
Mayor Jan van Zanen of The Hague confirmed that Veiligheidsregio Haaglanden stands behind this advice to Omroep West. When asked whether urgent advice isn't too non-committal, he said: "There is little non-committal. Because if we, the Netherlands, do not manage to do better in three weeks, the measures will become even stricter."
Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb told RTL Nieuws that in his region, face masks must be worn not only in shops, but also in other public areas.
GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver was critical on the government's advice to wear masks in shops in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, calling it too vague, according to NU.nl. "Clarify: a clear guideline for the use of face masks throughout the country," he said.
SP leader Lilian Marijnissen said that the government advice puts too much of the responsibility on shopkeepers. "Let others get the coals out of the fire. That won't get you anywhere. Make a clear strategy with uniform agreements."
Police union NPB told the Telegraaf that the face mask advice will be difficult to enforce, and that it takes attention away from other police duties.