Friday 10 July 2020

No fines for wearing medical masks on the tram, but who will carry out checks?

Masked mannequins in a clothes shop in Amsterdam’s Jordaan. Photo: DutchNews.nl

Public transport unions say they are concerned about who is going to makes sure train and tram users wear face masks from June 1, when normal services are resumed again.

Masks, which should not be of ‘medical quality’ will be compulsory from June 1 and people who refuse can be fined €95.

Prime minister Mark Rutte said at Tuesday’s press conference that chief conductors will issue fines on trains and that local authority wardens (boas) will do the job on buses and trams.

But a survey of 314 public transport sector workers by the CNV trade union federation found almost three-quarters are worried about their safety and say they expect more ‘incidents’ because of the mask requirement.

In addition, the street warden union BOA-ACP says its members will not hand out fines until they have been given ‘the right equipment’ to defend themselves if attacked. The union has been campaigning for wardens to be given truncheons and pepper spray as part of their regular kit.

Safety

Meanwhile MPs have questioned the official line that the masks worn on public transport should ‘not have a safety certification’, as indicated by ministers earlier, raising doubts about the effectiveness of the measure.

‘You are requiring people in a free society to wear something and at the same time there is a guideline which states that it should not work, that it should not offer protection,’ Labour leader Lodewijk Asscher said during Wednesday’s debate.

MPs also pointed out that certified masks are now being sold by high street stores such as Hema.

Prime minister Mark Rutte told Asscher that certified masks on public transport ‘are acceptable’. ‘We will not issue fines but we are asking you not to do it, because we don’t want competition for medical face masks. We need those for the health service.’

Droplets

None-medical masks are also useful in stopping the spread of the wearer’s droplets, Rutte said. ‘Medical masks are not necessary. You want to prevent the spread of droplets from one person to another and this is reduced if you wear a non-medical mask.’

The Dutch public health institute RIVM does not back the use of face masks, saying they offer a false sense of security. However, the government has decided they should be worn on public transport because it will be difficult to maintain 1.5 metres distance when more people start using trams and trains.

Meanwhile the Dutch Muslim association CMO has recommended that face masks and gloves be worn during prayers when groups of up to 30 are allowed to attend services again from June 1.

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