Face masks now officially mandatory in the Netherlands
The government’s controversial and temporary coronavirus law comes into effect on December 1, meaning that face masks are now mandatory in all indoor public spaces in the Netherlands.
The Temporary COVID-19 Measures Act
The Temporary COVID-19 Measures Act will be in place for three months, and allows the Dutch government more power over implementing national coronavirus measures. Under the new law, the government is able to implement a national mandatory face rule.
On top of the face mask rule, the law also turns the ban on singing and shouting in groups into urgent advice, and removes the advice for keeping 1,5-metre distance from other members of your household.
Lastly, the law changes the way in which Prime Minister Mark Rutte introduces new measures. Up until now, any new measures have been implemented as emergency regulation on the instruction of the Minister of Health, Welfare, and Sport (Hugo de Jonge). Now, coronavirus measures proposed by the cabinet must be submitted to the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) and Senate (Eerste Kamer) for approval. If the Tweede Kamer doesn’t approve a measure, it cannot be implemented.
Mandatory face mask rule in the Netherlands
While the government has introduced a 95-euro fine for anyone who fails to wear a mask (and who can’t provide evidence of exemption from the rule), the responsibility of enforcing the face mask rule will fall to retailers and business owners. They will not be able to issue fines, but could deny access to their shop or business.
Many shops, including Albert Heijn, HEMA, and Kruidvat, have already announced that they will not deny entry to any customer who refuses to wear a mask. A spokesperson for HEMA said it was up to their members of staff to assess the situation and decide for themselves what action should be taken: “It is mandatory for our staff and we request it from the customers. The staff may talk to the people, refuse them or call someone in like a BOA (Community Service Officer). We don't want it to end in a brawl, that benefits nobody."
Herbert Bruls, chairman of the Security Council, said on Monday that he was disappointed by these announcements: “You cannot say that if a customer enters your store or theatre and does not want to wear a mask that you won’t take action. You are responsible and have to obey the law." Any shop that repeatedly fails to enforce the rule will risk a fine of up to 4.000 euros, or even forced closure.
According to the Dutch government, not wearing a mask will result in police officers or BOAs issuing you a fine, however the chairman of the BOA association, Ruud Kuin, said it will take at least a week or two before any fines will be handed out. There are back-end administration issues that have to be handled before any fines can be issued, he says.