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Dutch government rejects mandated masks, says they could actually increase risk of transmission


'No proven effectiveness of masks'

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Dutch Minister for Medical Care Tamara van Ark said the government refuses to require the public to wear masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are the details?

The government made the announcement Wednesday, insisting that the effectiveness of masks in fighting the spread of coronavirus in the Netherlands remains unproven.

Van Ark made the announcement following recommendations from the country's National Institute for Health.

Instead, the government and its health departments will lean heavily on social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In remarks from The Hague, van Ark said, "Because from a medical perspective there is no proven effectiveness of masks, the Cabinet has decided that there will be no national obligation for wearing non-medical masks."

According to a Wednesday Politico report, van Ark said Dutch cities are still independently free to "experiment with a toolbox of measures" — including mandatory masks — in order to tamp down the spread of COVID-19.

National Institute for Health virologist Jaap van Dissel said that the department was not convinced mask-wearing would benefit people of the Netherlands — and, in fact, could be harmful to their health.

According to Reuters, Dissel argued that "wearing masks incorrectly, together with worse adherence to social distancing rules" could actually increase the risk of a person transmitting the deadly virus.

“So we think that if you're going to use masks (in a public setting)," he said, "then you must give good training for it."

What else do we know?

On Friday, Dutch News reported that face masks will be compulsory in areas of Amsterdam and Rotterdam beginning Aug. 5.

Official localities mandated the new rule following the national government's decision to move away from required masks.

Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said that he will also enforce strict social distancing measures in conjunction with the mask mandate.

"I want to be able to say to myself that I did everything possible to avoid one Rotterdammer picking up or dying from coronavirus," he said. "In the main, it will get people to keep their distance ... and we think it will increase the sense of urgency."

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