Tuesday 21 March 2023

Calls grow for facemasks in all Dutch public space to stop coronavirus spreading

Call for more mask wearing Photo: DutchNews.nl

Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb has called for urgent research into whether the Netherlands should impose compulsory face masks in public space, after weekly infections almost doubled in a week.

Speaking to Nieuwsuur news programme, also on behalf of Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema, he said the government needed to prepare alternative measures if the rates continued to rise.

‘I’m most worried about the fact that the most important rule, the one we expected the most of, the 1.5m [distancing], is wearing off very quickly,’ he said. ‘For a lot of people, this doesn’t mean anything any more and this means we need to consider what’s next.’

He said that the government should research the legal basis for imposing quarantine after a positive test, and also warned people to celebrate religious festivals within a household rather than en masse.

The number of weekly recorded infections in the Netherlands increased from 534 on July 14 to 987 on July 21, and the all-important R figure (measuring how many people each patient infects) is currently above the critical threshold of 1.

Justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus also warned on Wednesday night that people needed to follow the rules better, according to public broadcaster NOS. ‘Otherwise, there is a big chance that local mayors will have to make tougher rules locally,’ he warned.

Meanwhile a study from UMC Utrecht using mathematical modelling to measure the impact of a lockdown versus a package of personal measures – social distancing, hand washing, wearing facemasks in public – found that only all these prevention measures taken together could prevent a major coronavirus epidemic.

Earlier this week, France reimposed face masks in all enclosed public spaces as a measure against growing coronavirus infections. However, although Aboutaleb believes that facemasks outside would be easy to enforce, Hubert Bruls, mayor of Nijmegen and chair of the regional safety councils association, disagreed, telling NPO Radio 1 that distancing would work better in open public spaces.

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