Dutch students strongly advised to wear face masks at secondary schools
Students and staff at secondary schools in the Netherlands should also adhere to the "urgent advice" issued by Prime Minister Mark Rutte to wear face masks in specific indoor spaces as coronavirus infections continued to break records, including over 3,300 new infections on Wednesday. The advice will apply to school hallways, lunch rooms, and assembly halls, but not classrooms, unnamed sources told broadcaster NOS on Thursday.
It was an about-face for Rutte, who presented the policy in Parliament on Wednesday. "I would like to argue that this should not apply to secondary schools," he said, as teachers were already required to keep a distance of 1.5 meters away from students. The Cabinet was "not there yet" with regard to recommending masks in secondary education. "Of course, new insights can always arise within education, which makes people want to do things differently."
The updated policy stance was publicized by the broadcaster about a half-day later. NOS said that while the government advisors at the Outbreak Management Team recommended masks for people 16 years of age and over, secondary school association VO-Raad said this would be difficult to manage as it would create a division within the student body.
Karoly Illy, an Outbreak Management Team member and head of the Dutch Pediatric Association, voiced her support for making high school students wear masks when they are not in a classroom.
"In the classroom it is easier to keep a distance from each other. Outside it is often much more difficult," Illy told RTL Nieuws.
The government promised to release a specific policy on face masks with clear language by 6 p.m. on Friday. "In anticipation of this, the urgent advice is to start wearing non-medical face masks in all public indoor areas," including shops, cultural institutions, public transit stations, parking garages, hospitality businesses, and concert venues, except for when people are seated.
"For the time being, this advice will not apply to primary or secondary education," a government statement released Wednesday evening said.
The court system also issued an "urgent recommendation" to wear masks in all public areas of court facilities starting on Friday. In-person court hearings will continue as courtrooms and buildings can accommodate a safe social distance.