Wearing a mask does not make you careless, Dutch experts reveal
Following a study conducted on the streets of Amsterdam, Dutch researchers and experts state that wearing a face mask does not make members of the public act carelessly in regards to the coronavirus.
Face masks don’t lead to a false sense of security
A group of researchers observed people walking the streets of the Dutch capital and found that wearing masks did not give anyone a false sense of security. This contradicts Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s official standpoint on face masks, and his argument against making them mandatory across the Netherlands.
Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard, research leader for the Netherlands Study Centre for Crime and Law Enforcement, told the Volkskrant: “We can say carefully: there is no need to worry that masks give people a sense of security and lead to less distance between them.”
As part of the research, Lindegaard analysed video footage from June 1 of a shopping street in Amsterdam that was not particularly overcrowded. The footage showed that people wearing a mask violated the 1,5 metre distance rule just as frequently as people not wearing masks. Her research also found that 80 percent of those wearing masks wore them correctly.
Keeping 1,5 metre distance on Dutch streets
Inadvertently, Lindegaard’s research also led her to discover that, on the whole, people regularly failed to keep their distance from other members of the public. In her preliminary report, she stated that, in just 30 seconds of footage, 55 percent of shoppers committed a violation of the 1,5 metre rule, and 12 percent got within half a metre of a fellow pedestrian.
Lindegaard says this proves that busyness and crowd control play key roles in the spread of the virus and the following of coronavirus measures. “If you want to enforce the distance rule,” she told the Volkskrant, “you have to do crowd management, pressure management. Make sure that there are not too many people [there] at the same time.”
Furthermore, the study failed to find any proof that wearing a face mask led to a reinforcement of safe behaviour - people wearing face masks were not more likely to keep a wide berth from others than people not wearing one. Lindegaard’s study therefore shows that face masks don’t lead to any extra risks, or extra precaution.
Face mask policy in the Netherlands
Some experts, including John de Wit (professor of health psychology at Utrecht University), believe these findings could have major consequences for the existing national policy for face masks. De Wit says the research provides solid evidence that there are no negative side effects to the wearing of face masks.
De Wit also says that, with the findings of this research, he hopes people will feel reassured about the supposed adverse side effects of face masks. He encourages members of the public to wear them anywhere where it is difficult to maintain 1,5 metre distance. “They are not the solution,” he says, “but they can help.”