What does science think about mouth masks? (and five more questions) NOW


The debate about whether or not to introduce a mouth mask requirement in public places is growing. NU.nl therefore answers six frequently asked questions.

Who are in favor of a mouth mask obligation?

Entrepreneurs in particular are in favor of the facemask obligation, because they are afraid that they will have to close the doors again with a new corona wave. For example, the Bazaar in Beverwijk asks visitors to “wear” mouth masks urgently because the crowds on the site are increasing. In Amsterdam, shopkeepers argue for a face mask requirement in shops and busy streets.

The Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN) also says against Heart of the Netherlands to be positive about a possible mouth mask obligation. According to the trade association, it is impossible to guarantee the 1.5 meter distance.

Because of the fear of a second wave, mayors Ahmed Aboutaleb of Rotterdam and his Amsterdam colleague Femke Halsema asked the cabinet to investigate the obligation to wear a face mask outdoors. If the corona figures continue to rise, then that measure can be implemented quickly, Aboutaleb said on Wednesday evening News hour.

Minister Ferd Grapperhaus (Justice and Security) announced on Friday at a press conference that the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) will again investigate the effectiveness of mouth masks.

Which European countries are already around?

In Europe it is easier to see in which countries mouth masks are not mandatory in public spaces. In Switzerland, Austria, Switzerland and Latvia, mouth masks are only mandatory in public transport, as in the Netherlands. In Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Lithuania, no mask is required at all.

What does science say?

The tricky part of the discussion about mouth masks is that science has no watertight answer to the question of whether wearing non-medical masks in public spaces is effective.

The leading medical journal The Lancet published a meta-study late last month showing that wearing mouth masks can reduce the risk of infection. In an infected person who breathes or speaks through a mouth mask, the virus droplets do not reach as far, several analyzed studies confirm.

However, experts say the study reports do not provide a representative picture. For example, because some studies take medical mouth masks into account, the effectiveness of which has already been proven. Also, no controlled research has been conducted comparing a group of infected subjects who do wear masks to a group that does not wear masks, de Volkskrant.

Why don’t we just wear them just to be sure?

It will not do any harm, it is argued by some advocates. But experts also disagree on this reasoning. Opponents say that wearing a facemask can provide false safety, so people keep less distance and pay less attention to hygiene.

Not everyone wears a mask in the right way. For example, in some people the mouth caps are under the nose and it is put in the pocket after use. “With your hands you grab door handles, then you put those same hands in your pocket where you also have your mouth mask. When you put on that mask, you can become infected yourself and thus infect others,” says Katrien Lagrou, head of the clinical laboratory microbiology at UZ Leuven against this The newspapaer.”

Hubert Bruls, chairman of the Security Council, thinks that the introduction of a mouth mask obligation will lead to “chaos” in the short term, he said on Thursday morning in the radio program Speech makers. According to him, a quickly introduced obligation cannot be enforced and will lead to a flood of fines.

UMCG virologist Alex Friedrich says in Daily newspaper of the North that wearing a mouth mask sends out an important signal. “It is the most impressive tool we have to point out the importance of the 1.5 meter distance,” he says. “Wearing a mouth mask shows us that there is something wrong. It is not business as usual.”

What does the government think of a mouth mask obligation?

The cabinet is not planning to introduce a mouth mask obligation for the time being, it appeared on Friday during a press conference by Minister Grapperhaus. “With the exception of public transport, it is possible everywhere in the Netherlands to guarantee the 1.5 meter distance. That is why we see no reason to reconsider our policy for the time being,” the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport already told NU.nl on Thursday. know.

According to the OMT, which advises the cabinet, it is better to keep 1.5 meters between each other, since the effectiveness of this has been proven. The OMT is now investigating whether a mouth mask obligation can supplement current policy.

And the WHO?

The World Health Organization WHO was initially against the recommendation of mouth masks in public spaces, but has been opposed since the beginning of June, after the The Lancet was published.

The WHO emphasizes that there is still no high-quality scientific evidence and warns that mouth masks should not give a false sense of safety.

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