This week’s coronavirus update showed that the number of new cases in the Netherlands had doubled since last week, which shows that the current measures are no longer taming the spread of the virus. Should the Netherlands follow other countries, and make face masks mandatory?
France, Germany and England have all made wearing a face mask mandatory while indoors. But the Netherlands has been very hesitant to follow suit. During the early stages of the crisis, not advising the public to wear masks was partly done to maximise supply for the healthcare sectors, but also because the RIVM didn’t think it would matter that much. However, now that people are required to wear non-medical face masks in public transport, that explanation no longer makes sense. So the following question is there to be answered:
Is it time to make face masks mandatory?
Professor Detlef Lohse from the University of Twente has been carrying out research on the role aerosols play in the spread of coronavirus. His study has shown so far that the droplets we leave behind in the air when we breathe can travel further than 1.5m, and that the virus can live in them for 30-40 times as long as was originally thought.
Masks could help enormously with minimising the spread of coronavirus through these droplets: not only do they limit the amount of droplets a person can spread, they also provide some protection from droplets from other people. If everyone is wearing a mask, then the virus has a much smaller chance of spreading. Lohse recommends making face masks mandatory in indoor spaces as soon as possible, especially to prepare for the autumn, when people will be spending more time indoors. In an interview with the AD, he said:
“I do not understand why the Netherlands still has not made wearing face masks mandatory.”
There are problems with face masks in certain settings, though. It’s hard to see how they could work in bars and restaurants, where people are drinking and eating. Unfortunately, these are also the settings where masks would be really helpful, as people are talking and laughing with their heads quite close together most of the time. Enforcing them in shops could also prove difficult: getting customers to pick up a basket when they enter a store is hard enough.
What do you think? Should the Netherlands make face masks mandatory? Let us know in the comments below.
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