Saturday 31 October 2020

Majority of MPs back face masks in all public places, say current situation is confusing

Lilian Marijnissen (SP) and Lodewijk Asscher (PvdA) during the debate. Photo: Remko de Waal ANP

A clear majority of MPs are now in favour of making face masks compulsory in indoor public spaces, it emerged on Wednesday afternoon during a debate on the latest government measures to stem the rise in coronavirus cases.

Klaas Dijkhoff, leader of the ruling VVD parliamentary party, said during the debate that he too wants the government to make it clear that face masks should be worn indoors in all public buildings. However, Dijkhoff said it would be up to the cabinet whether this should be enforceable by law, or a recommendation.

The shift in the VVD’s position means there is now a clear majority in favour of national guidelines.The opposition SP, GroenLinks and PvdA, and the three other coalition parties had all come out earlier in favour of masks.

On Monday, the government said it recommended people wear masks in supermarkets in Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. The mayors of these three cities, plus Eindhoven, then went on to say they want masks to be worn in all public buildings.

Shopkeepers associations, however, have said they are not prepared to police the measure, and some of the Netherlands’ biggest high street chains have said they will not make masks a requirement.

In particular, the regional approach and the lack of clarity about when masks should be worn has irritated MPs.

MPs are not voting to make masks compulsory and there is no motion up for a vote. However, the majority support does send a strong signal to the government, the NRC said in its analysis.

Either prime minister Mark Rutte or health minister Hugo de Jonge are expected to make a statement about the issue later in the debate.

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