Dutch government could ditch face mask rule before September
Several members of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) have suggested that the Netherlands may be able to lift the mandatory face mask rule earlier than planned.
OMT believes face mask rule can be lifted this summer
According to the government’s plan for lifting lockdown, the basic rules - which include maintaining 1,5-metre distance and wearing a mask in all indoor public areas - will be the last measures to be lifted. The plan doesn’t specify when this might happen, but, at the end of May, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said it was a “real possibility” that all coronavirus rules could be lifted by September.
At the time, the OMT warned the Dutch government not to rush into anything, as the country could potentially face a fourth coronavirus wave this winter. Now, several members are highlighting the significant progress that has been made with the national vaccination campaign and the falling number of coronavirus infections, questioning whether face masks will really be required throughout the whole summer.
Andreas Voss, member of the World Health Organisation expert team and head of microbiology at a hospital in Nijmegen, wonders whether keeping the face mask rule in place would be justified: “You will soon have a hot summer and you will saddle people with a face mask, while the number of infections is very low,” he says.
More coronavirus restrictions to lift on June 26
A source from The Hague has said the cabinet is discussing the future of the government’s coronavirus policy and what will happen with the so-called basic rules, deciding whether or not the face mask rule might be lifted before September. As more and more are vaccinated and the number of infections continues to drop, it will likely become harder for the government to justify and implement the rule - which was already controversial when introduced in December.
This week, rumours from The Hague also revealed that the cabinet has already decided to bring the next stage of relaxations forward by four days. At the press conference on May 28, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said step four of the openings plan (allowing events and groups of up to eight people to gather outdoors) would likely take effect on June 30, but new information suggests it will be brought forward to June 26.
The next coronavirus press conference is scheduled to take place on Friday, June 18.