The Dutch government on Wednesday advised the public that there will be no mask mandate to slow the spread of coronavirus, stating that their effectiveness remains unproven.
The Minister for Medical Care Tamara van Ark made the decision after a review by the country’s National Institute for Health (RIVM).
Instead the official advice is for better adherence to social distancing rules after a surge in coronavirus cases over the past seven days, Van Ark said at a press conference in The Hague, Reuters reports.
“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” Van Ark said.
RIVM chief Jaap van Dissel cited studies that show masks help slow the spread of disease but remained unconvinced they will do anything to counter coronavirus outbreak in the Netherlands.
He argued wearing masks incorrectly, together with worse adherence to social distancing rules, could increase the risk of transmitting the disease.
“So we think that if you’re going to use masks (in a public setting) … then you must give good training for it,” he said.
The decision followed a meeting of health and government officials after new coronavirus cases in the country rose to 1,329 in the past week, an increase of more than a third. The case level has since flattened out.
As Breitbart News reported, the Dutch have taken a different path in their reaction to the global pandemic almost from the first moment it was discovered.
Shops have remained open and families cycle along in the sunny summer weather in the Netherlands, which has opted for what it calls an “intelligent lockdown” to meet the coronavirus threat.
In contrast to most other European countries where people were ordered to remain housebound for months at a time, the Dutch authorities merely advised people to stay home if possible and to keep 1.5 metres (five feet) of social distance.
The Dutch position — very similar to Sweden’s — also reflects a wider philosophical split in both Europe and the world on how to balance the need to curb the disease against the catastrophic economic and broader societal damage caused by harsh lockdowns.