The Dutch government on Wednesday advised the public not to wear masks to slow the spread of coronavirus, cautioning 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.