Face masks do not cap citizens’ basic rights, rules court

Social distancing signs in Amsterdam. Photo: S Boztas
Spot the face masks in the Red Light District    Photo: S Boztas

A court in Amsterdam has ruled that the city is not contravening citizens’ basic rights by asking them to wear face masks in busy areas of the capital.

On August 4, the regional safety body ruled that over-13s needed to wear a mask at all times in the redl ight district, Kalverstraat, Nieuwendijk and the Albert Cuypmarkt and Plein ’40-’45 during their markets.

The temporary measure until the end of August was intended as an experiment to draw attention to the virus in crowded areas and encourage people to keep a 1.5 metres distance, a council spokeswoman told DutchNews.nl.


However red light district resident and theatre company owner Ab Gietelink and others from the Viruswaarheid protest group took the safety body to court on Monday, claiming that the obligation to wear a mask contravened the right to a private, ‘personal life’ under Dutch law.

‘I live and work on the canals in Amsterdam and they decided that a few places in the heart of Amsterdam, symbolic places where a lot of people and tourists come, should have obligatory face masks,’ Gietelink told DutchNews.nl

‘There are two reasons why this just can’t happen. The public health institute and Outbreak Management Team have said that non-professional face masks don’t protect you or others and at least three lawyers have said that there is no legal basis and it is an infringement of basic rights. I expected us to win.’


However, the court in Amsterdam ruled that it was a relatively minor violation of personal rights, and so was allowed under emergency coronavirus prevention laws. Rotterdam has imposed similar rules for similar reasons.

When DutchNews.nl visited the red light district on Wednesday evening, however, there was little sign of face mask wearing, especially on the many tourists wandering the area in large groups.

One pair of tourists standing next to a public information sign, who did not want to be named, told DutchNews.nl that they did not know about the ruling. ‘They should provide us with more information,’ said one.

Earlier this week prime minister Mark Rutte limited house guests to six and Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema warned that the city would be taking a harder approach if the weekly numbers of new infections continue to rise, raising the possibility of limiting tourism to essential city visits only.

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