As a traveler, the whole mask debate fascinates me and so I read with interest that the Netherlands is moving in an opposite direction from its European neighbors, bucking conventional wisdom by not only failing to mandate masks, but even discouraging their use.
Dutch Scientists: No Evidence Face Masks Works (And They May Even Be Harmful)
120 countries around the world now require facial coverings in most public places. That includes almost all of Europe. But the Netherlands has been a visible holdout. Despite mounting pressure, however, the Dutch are firmly resisting a mandatory mask mandate.
Coen Berends, a spokesperson for the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, said:
“Face masks in public places are not necessary, based on all the current evidence. There is no benefit and there may even be negative impact.”
That negative impact is the false sense of security masks brings, leading people to let down their guard and forsake the more important effort of social distancing.
The Netherlands has fared well in its battle against COVID-19. With infection and death rates lower than many of its European peers. Instead of face masks, the Dutch government has stressed three pivotal factors in fighting the spread of virus:
- wash hands regularly
- maintain social distancing of 1.5 meters (~5 feet)
- stay at home if suffering any symptoms
There is one exception: masks are required on public transport, as social distancing on crowded trains and busses is virtually impossible.
Holland has also suffered a recent outbreak of cases, but has traced those to family gatherings in which masks would not have been worn even if they were required.
I don’t purport to draw any conclusions from the Dutch attitude toward masks. On a personal basis, the position is appealing because I don’t like wearing masks. Who does? But for now, I continue to view masks as a non-invasive extra layer of protection that I gladly wear when required in public. It will be fascinating to see how the numbers in the Netherlands compare to those of surrounding countries in the weeks ahead.