Cabinet sources have told broadcaster NOS that secondary school pupils will be ‘strongly advised’ to wear face masks in the canteen, assembly rooms and in the corridors but not during lessons.
Tens of thousands of pupils are not currently at school because they are in quarantine or have symptoms, and this means they are missing out on vital education, school heads said earlier this week.
Paediatrician Károly Illy, who chairs the Dutch child medicine association and is a member of the government’s Outbreak Management Team, has also called for the introduction of masks in schools apart from during lessons.
If true, the move would mean another u-turn for the government. On Wednesday, prime minister Mark Rutte said that the government is recommending face masks be worn in all buildings open to the public, except schools, although he did say that advice could change following discussions with experts.
A number of educational establishments have already introduced masks, and there have been several coronavirus outbreaks focused on schools, including at least 55 cases at the Spinoza secondary school in Amsterdam.
The government has also allocated €360m to help schools ensure their ventilation systems are up to scratch.
As things look at the moment, people are being urged to wear masks in all shops, museums, council offices, airports, car parks and petrol stations.
They should also be worn in cafes, restaurants, theatres and concert halls apart from when people are seated.
Hair dressers, nail stylists and other contact professions are also being recommended to wear a mask, as are their customers.
Now secondary schools are likely to be added to the list.
Speaking during Wednesday’s debate on the government strategy, Rutte said that recommending the use of masks nationwide was the way to ensure a consistent approach.
Retail organisations and MPs had called on the government to bring in a national measure to head off confusion and enforcement issues after the mayors of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Eindhoven said they recommended masks be worn in all public buildings, including supermarkets and museums.
Rutte also said he did not expect the use of masks to contribute greatly to reduce the spread of coronavirus, which topped 3,000 new cases for the second day in a row on Wednesday.
The government’s formal advice will be published on Friday at 6pm.