Wednesday 22 March 2023

Have face masks had their day? They are up for discussion, minister confirms


Face masks could disappear from parts of public life as early as next week, health minister Hugo de Jonge said after a meeting of ministers involved in combating the crisis.

Ministers will take a final decision at Friday’s cabinet meeting, ahead of a press conference during which De Jonge and prime minister Mark Rutte will explain the latest changes.

‘It could be an option,’ De Jonge told reporters. ‘But we will have to look carefully at what can be relaxed and what we need for a longer period,’ he said. Insiders told the AD that face masks are likely to remain a requirement on public transport and in busy places.

The cabinet is currently re-examining all the measures currently in force and weighing up the options to decide which can be scrapped first.

‘Things are going really well, the vaccination programme is fast and we are seeing infection rates and hospital figures going down,’ De Jonge said. ‘That means we take the next step on Friday and prepare for new rules in a week’s time.’

Earlier this week it emerged that the cabinet wants to take step four of its five step plan to getting back to normal on June 26, not June 30 as mooted earlier.

That will involve allowing people to have eight guests at home and give restaurants and bars more capacity, among other measures.

During Friday’s press conference, ministers will also give more details about the European coronavirus passport, allowing people to travel more easily between EU countries. That is due to come into effect on July 1.

Broadcaster NOS suggested on Wednesday afternoon that the home working requirement may also be lifted for people who can keep 1.5 metres distance at the office.

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