Face masks not needed in private life
Under the current rules in the Netherlands, it is not necessary to wear face masks in your own personal time. Public transport is an exception. As of 1 June, the use of a non-medical face mask is required when you travel by public transport, since it is not possible to stay far enough apart in public transport. It should be noted that limited scientific evidence is available regarding how effective these face masks are. See the frequently asked questions about face masks on government.nl.
The novel coronavirus is transmitted through droplets from the nose and throat. The droplets spread via coughing and sneezing. Someone else can breathe them in and get infected. The droplets can also be transmitted through hand contact, for example if someone touches their nose or face and then shakes hands.
In the Netherlands, we are avoiding crowded areas as much as possible, and we are staying 1.5 meters apart. If you have cold symptoms, you are required to stay at home. If someone in the household has a fever, the whole household stays home. It is also important to follow the hygiene measures:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow
- Use paper tissues
- Do not shake hands
Masks for healthcare workers
It is important to ensure that professional face masks are available for healthcare workers in sufficient quantities. The healthcare sector is where the medical face masks are needed most. They are mainly used while caring for COVID-19 patients. The face masks ensure that the healthcare workers will not get infected.
Home-made face masks
Home-made face masks do not provide sufficient protection against the coronavirus. Professional face masks do provide protection. They fit tightly over the nose and mouth and are changed regularly. Home-made face masks vary widely in fit, materials and overall quality. This is because various materials are used, such as cotton and linen. As a result, the fit and filter effect are not sufficient.
Do not use vacuum cleaner bags in face masks
It is not advisable to use a vacuum cleaner bag or filter (including HEPA filters) in your face mask. Vacuum cleaner bags and filters are intended for use in vacuum cleaners. Many vacuum cleaner bags are made of polypropylene fibres that are ‘meltblown’ to form a non-woven fleece-like fabric. When these fabrics are used to make vacuum cleaner bags, they may be treated with chemical additives such as biocides to give vacuum cleaner bags specific properties. The safety of vacuum cleaner bags and filters has been tested for use in vacuum cleaners. When used normally in vacuum cleaners, there is no health risk. However, they are not intended for (extended) use in direct skin contact or as a breathing filter.
Using them in a face mask is therefore unintended use. For that reason, it is not possible to confirm that it is safe to use them for that purpose. The use of a vacuum cleaner bag and/or filter in a face mask is therefore not recommended. More information in the background document afraden stofzuigerzak (Dutch only)
Saying good-bye at home in the event of a death
If a family member who has the coronavirus (or is suspected of having the virus) 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 coronavirus. You must use a mask that covers your mouth and nose if you cannot keep a distance of 1.5 meters in that situation.
In case of physical contact, you must ensure proper hygiene:
- Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, and then dry your hands thoroughly
- Before you go out, when you return home, after you blow your nose, obviously before meals, and after you have used the toilet.
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 goodbye.
Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, and then dry your hands thoroughly. Wash your hands before you go out, when you return home, after you blow your nose, obviously before meals, and after you have used the toilet. Cough or sneeze into your elbow and touch your face as little as possible. When you do this, it is not necessary to wear gloves in public areas. Wearing gloves does not offer extra protection. Some people have to wash their hands very frequently in the context of their work, causing their hands to become painful and itchy. To protect the skin from frequent washing, it would be useful to wear disposable gloves.