Non-medical face masks
It seems likely that face masks help prevent infecting others, but only to a limited extent. For that reason, face masks are not a replacement for the hygiene measures, physical distancing, avoiding crowds and staying home in case of symptoms. It remains important for everyone to comply with the coronavirus measures and the basic rules. Stay at least 1.5 metres from others, avoid crowded places and if you have symptoms, stay home and get tested. Previous estimates indicated that a disproportionate number of people in public spaces would have to wear a face mask to prevent one single infection. However, the number of contagious people in the Netherlands has risen so significantly that this ratio of prevention is no longer so disproportionate. It will not be possible to state with certainty within the short term whether face masks do or do not have an additional effect.
Decision regarding the use of face masks
In an advisory report on 12 October, the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) indicated its opinion that the discussion regarding the use of face masks was skewed. According to the OMT, the discussion itself had become more important than the possible significance of the face masks for public health. For that reason, the OMT asked policy-makers to reach a decision regarding the use of face masks.
Effectiveness of non-medical face masks
The effectiveness of a non-medical face mask depends very much on the quality of the materials, the fit on the face, and the way in which the user wears the face mask. RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment
advises against using a vacuum cleaner bag or filter in a face mask (background document in Dutch). The term ‘face mask’ or ‘mouth covering’ is not quite specific enough; the mask must be worn over the mouth and nose in order to have an effect.
More information on face masks is available on Government.nl.
Mouth shields (see photo) are not a suitable replacement for a face mask, because they do not provide adequate protection due to the open top.
Face masks when saying good-bye at home in the event of a death
If a family member who has COVID-19 (or is suspected of having the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2) is on their deathbed, you may want to say good-bye to them in person. In that case, you must protect yourself from catching the virus. You must use a medical face mask that covers your mouth and nose. In case of physical contact, you must ensure proper hygiene: After physical contact and after the end of the visit, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, and then dry your hands well. If a direct family member with COVID-19 has been admitted to a healthcare institution, check with the doctor to see if it is possible to say good-bye.
No need for gloves in public spaces
There is no need to wear gloves in public spaces. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, and then dry your hands well. In any case, do this when you come in from outside, after you blow your nose, before preparing meals, before eating meals, and after you have used the toilet. Cough or sneeze into your elbow and touch your face as little as possible.