Gov't advice to wear masks in public space met with skepticism
On Wednesday Prime Minister Mark Rutte issued the urgent advice for all Netherlands residents to wear masks in publicly accessible indoor spaces. This advice was met with skepticism, especially from the catering industry. Former RIVM director Roel Coutinho would rather have seen a mask obligation instead of advice.
Hospitality association KHN doubts whether the advice to wear masks in public makes sense, the association said in a press release. "The fact that there is still no scientific substantiation by the cabinet and RIVM about the proven usefulness of face masks certainly does not help to create and maintain support. Moreover, face masks still form an extra barrier to visiting a catering establishments."
If the government turns its advice into the obligation, the KHN wants the Netherlands to follow Germany and Belgium's example. According to the association, in those countries up to 10 people are allowed at a restaurant table. "Then we will be open to it," the association said. The KHN also wants extra financial support should masks become mandatory.
Roel Coutinho, who preceded Jaap van Dissel as head of public health institute RIVM, is pleased that the advice to wear masks indoors now applies to the whole of the Netherlands, but regrets that the government did not make it mandatory. "On the basis of all the literature, I am convinced that wearing a face mask is useful. But only advice makes it particularly difficult for people," he said to Nieuwsuur. "An obligation, as is also happening in countries around us, gives everyone much more clarity."
An obligation will also help the stores that have to enforce the face mask rule. "Because what exactly should those shops or supermarkets do?" Coutinho said. "Because it only concerns urgent advice, the responsibility now lies with shops, which makes it very difficult. An obligation is not always pleasant, but it is clear and easy to enforce."
Karoly Illy, chairman of the Dutch Pediatric Association and member of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT), is worried that the government said masks aren't necessary in secondary schools. High school students should really wear a mask when they're not in the classroom, she said to RTL Nieuws.
"In the classroom it is easier to keep a distance from each other. Outside it is often a lot more difficult. You could wear a mask there, for example," Illy said. She will bring this up with the OMT, she said.
The VO-Raad, the council for secondary schools in the Netherlands, told RTL that the current protocol states that face masks are not necessary at school. But schools are free to implement such a rule if they wish, the council said.