Face masks to be mandatory in the Netherlands from December 1
Mandatory face masks from December 1
The announcement does not come as a surprise, as Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo De Jonge had made it clear that, after months of deliberation, this rule would be implemented in the Netherlands. De Jonge stated that the rule would be enforced under the new coronavirus law, which comes into effect on December 1.
Non-medical face masks will be mandatory in shops, museums, restaurants, cinemas, airports and theatres, for everyone aged 13 and older. They will also be mandatory in secondary schools and universities (but not in primary schools). Lastly, anyone working in a contact profession (i.e. hairdressers, driving instructors) will be required to wear one, as will their customers.
Masks are already mandatory on all forms of public transport, but the rule will now also apply in stations and at bus / tram stops. Anyone who fails to wear a mask will risk a 95-euro fine.
Exemptions to the face mask rule
There are a handful of places that are exempt from the new law. A mask is not required if people have a fixed seat (i.e. in a restaurant or theatre), but as soon as they stand up and walk around, to go to the toilet for example, then a mask must be worn. The same goes for schools - masks can be removed during class when students are seated, but must be worn when moving through the building.
Masks are also not mandatory in places of worship (i.e. churches, mosques, and synagogues). Face masks will also not be required during sports, musical rehearsals or performances, for radio and TV interviews, or when acting.
Lastly, the law does not apply to anyone who is unable to wear a mask due to disability or a health condition, but police officers or community service officers (BOAs) can ask a member of the public to prove that they are exempt front the rule.
Restaurants to open in time for Christmas?
At the press conference on Tuesday, Rutte and De Jonge refused to provide any certainty as to what measures would be in place over Christmas. However, they did state that they would monitor the coronavirus situation over the coming weeks, and announce a final decision on December 8.
Now, Rutte and his cabinet ministers are discussing ways in which some catering establishments (horeca) could be opened safely and responsibly over the Christmas period. In a letter to the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer), Eric Wiebes, the Minister for Economic Affairs, wrote that ministers were in conversation with the catering sector to determine whether it would be possible "to allow certain catering activities to take place safely, if the epidemiological picture allows it." But in his letter, he makes it clear that, for this to be able to happen, the number of new infections must be further reduced.
It is not yet clear which establishments will be permitted to open, or when they will be allowed to do so. Wiebes’ letter mentions independently-run establishments, or businesses where there is no explicit opportunity to drink alcohol, as long as they also carried out health checks and registered guests on arrival. The mention of alcohol suggests that bars will not be allowed to reopen for Christmas.