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Face masks strongly advised in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Hague & Eindhoven

A requirement to wear face masks was not one of the new social restrictions introduced by the national government on Monday night to combat the coronavirus crisis, but residents of the regions around Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Eindhoven were urgently advised to wear a face mask whenever in an indoor space accessible to the public. Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema, who also serves as the chair of the Amsterdam-Amstelland Security Region, made the announcement at a press conference shortly after Prime Minister Mark Rutte wrapped up his own.

The mayor said that it was very difficult to create a legal framework where regional authorities could force people to wear a face mask. "Ultimately, this crisis cannot be combated by the government," she said. "But, is the behavior of us all that must help us get the crisis under control.”

Halsema said harsher measures will become a reality if the number of new daily infections does not fall by 40 percent. She also said the basic reproduction number of the coronavirus must drop to below 1.00, where every contagious person spreads the infection to no more than one other person, thus making it possible to fully carry out source and contact investigations.

With regard to the mask advice, she was also speaking on behalf of the Rotterdam-Rijnmond, Haaglanden, and Brabant-Zuidoost Security Regions. All four regions are among the 14 security regions in the Netherlands which were on the "worrisome" level 2 of the government's three-stage coronavirus warning system. None of the 25 regions were placed at Level 3, the most serious risk level, as of Monday.

The Amsterdam mayor also expressed concern for the mental health of those living in the city. "We have prevention teams that will go into the neighborhoods because we also want to ensure that many people can somewhat absorb this setback emotionally and mentally."

Second wave does not mean shutting down tourism
She said that Amsterdam is firmly in the grip of a second wave of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, and the disease it causes, Covid-19. She said she has spoken to many doctors who were seriously concerned about their ability to continue with regular healthcare unrelated to Covid-19.

However, despite the increasing infections, tourists will still be allowed to visit Amsterdam. They will be advised to avoid crowded areas, and will be expected to follow the same rules as everyone else.

Sticking to the rules
More rules have been in place in the Randstad regions for over a week, which initially were earlier closing times for catering establishments and a 50 persons limit on gatherings. Parliamentarians were very critical of these stricter measures last week, with some asking how canceling last rounds in the pub will effectively stop the spread of the virus.

Jaap van Dissel, the person leading the coronavirus response at public health institute RIVM, raised concerns about people not sticking to the basic rules in place to curb the spread of the virus. “How well is everyone complying with the measures? We are creating problems when we do not keep to 1.5 meters away, or go out when sick,” he told newspaper Trouw. “You have to stimulate people's intrinsic motivation. That is complicated. Part of the motivation will come back if you notice in your environment that Covid is a real problem.”

That people were not always sticking to the rules is clear. On Monday the Public Prosecution Service announced that since the start of this crisis in March, it's handled 337 criminal cases that are pandemic related, and issued 17,200 fines for violation of Covid-19 measures.

Last Thursday, hundreds of Willem II supporters gathered closely on a Tilburg square to watch an Europa League match against Rangers FC. A restaurant in The Hague was cleared out on Saturday after authorities caught it with 200 guests inside, far surpassing the 50 persons limit.



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