The Dutch government announced in a press conference several weeks ago that face masks will be finally mandatory in public spaces from December 1. The long-awaited mask regulation follows the cabinet’s “urgent advice,” which has been in place for months now.
Starting next month, if you’re found without a mask in public, you’ll be fined 95 euros. Nobody wants that, so we’ve broken down exactly what the regulations will mean, and found the answers to all your burning questions.
Where is a mask required?
Beginning December 1, everyone over the age of 13 will be obliged to wear a face mask in all public interior spaces. These include shops, museums, restaurants, theatres, petrol stations, bars, concert halls, station buildings and airports.
The mask is not mandatory if people have a fixed seat. For example, a face mask may be removed while seated in a theatre or cafe. Although, when standing up to leave or go to the bathroom, the mask must again be worn.
In buildings used for religious purposes, such as churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques, a face mask is not required.
What type of mask is approved?
The face mask must cover the mouth and nose entirely. It should be designed specifically to prevent the spread of viruses (i.e., not a ski mask).
The government prefers people to purchase their masks in drugstores and supermarkets, rather than from medical companies, to preserve the medical-grade masks for healthcare professionals who need them.
A face shield is not to be used as an alternative to a mask, as it doesn’t completely cover the mouth and nose. The same goes for items such as a bandana or scarf.
Are there different rules in education?
Yes. People in schools and universities will be obliged to wear masks, with the exception of primary schools.
For all secondary and higher education, a mask must be worn while moving through the buildings. The mask may be removed during class, provided everyone is sitting or standing still. To be clear, teachers do not have to wear a mask when standing in front of the group but will need to wear it when moving about the classroom.
During gym class, dance, theatre, singing, and other forms of physical education, a face mask is not required.
And contact professions?
In contact professions such as the hairdresser or nail salon, maintaining 1.5 metres of separation is not realistic. For this reason, face masks are necessary. This applies to both the customer and practitioner.
Care providers such as physiotherapists and GPs will be exempt from the obligation, although in some cases they too will be asked to wear a mask.
Hospitals and care institutions will have the authority to apply their own rules regarding face masks and other personal protective equipment. These should be followed by patients, visitors and caregivers.
Who is exempted?
People who are unable to wear a mask due to disability or illness are not required to follow this obligation. Police and boas will retain the right to ask a person to demonstrate that they fit into this exception.
Face masks will also not be required during sports, acting, musical rehearsals and performances, or while speaking publically on the radio and TV.
Sex workers are also exempted from the mandate, and as mentioned before, so are visitors to places of worship.
Should I wear a mask before December 1?
For months now, a mask has been required for public transportation, and this will continue.
The government has also issued urgent advice for people to wear masks in other public spaces. Although, until the definitive starting date, the face mask is not mandatory and people cannot be fined. You can, however, expect a bit of public shaming from your peers.
How long will the regulations last?
The regulations are to apply initially for three months. An extension is possible, though as soon as the medical necessity has passed, the regulations will be withdrawn.
How are people responding?
Hart van Nederland conducted a survey to gather public opinion on the upcoming mandate and its exceptions. They found that 67% of their survey respondents think that churchgoers and sex workers should also be required to wear a mask. Only 32% think the exemption is justified.
General practitioner Felix van Wissel is disappointed with the new mandate. He believes that citizens should be able to make the choice for themselves whether or not to wear a mask. “Don’t start handing out fines for something that has not been scientifically proven,” says the doctor. “With this, men take a piece of freedom from the people.”
Sex worker Jorma Bos, on the other hand, is quite content with the upcoming guidelines. She says she was unable to work during the first coronavirus wave, despite demand from clients.
Although Bos doesn’t wear a mask while working, she remains vigilant with her clients. “I ask about their health and notice that many customers are also taking their own responsibility.” She no longer accepts appointments with tourists and takes her own precautions outside of work.
Do you agree with the Dutch government’s regulations on face masks? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
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