Shaken by the second wave of the virus, the Dutch adopt the mask

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The Hague | Bustle in The Hague: after standing out in the spring by adopting much more flexible containment than their European neighbors, the Netherlands ended up adopting the mask and a series of other measures to face the “second wave”.

The government did an about-face by dragging its feet. Globally ignored so far, considered ineffective and counterproductive by experts from health authorities, the mask is now “strongly recommended” in closed public spaces, such as shops, museums, train stations and airports.

In a shopping street in The Hague, a stone’s throw from parliament, the change is remarkable: masks have appeared in the public landscape.

“I find it uncomfortable but I wear it because I don’t want us to be confined”, explains Maria Houweling, a 48-year-old specialist educator, who pleads for the piece of cloth to be made compulsory “in order to prevent the virus from spreading. spread further ”.

In the Netherlands, where it is now forbidden to receive more than four people at home or to go to a sports match, the new measures receive a mixed reception. The pragmatism of the Dutch pushes them to accept them, but for how long?

Faced with the resurgence of the new coronavirus, bars and restaurants have in particular been ordered to lower the curtains at 10 p.m. (8 p.m. GMT), the busiest time of the evening, deplores Bas Swillens with a “feeling of injustice”, manager of two establishments in The Hague.

“The entire restaurant industry is going through a difficult year. And we do not know what to expect ”for the future, he testifies to AFP.

“Bend the trend”

Since the appearance of the virus, 117,551 cases have been officially recorded in the Netherlands, including 6,393 deaths, according to the latest official figures.

Until now, the government has mainly relied on teleworking and social distancing of 1.5 meters, rather than an early closure of shops or the wearing of masks, mandatory only in public transport.

But faced with the explosion of cases, Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Wednesday asked his fellow citizens to cover their noses and mouths “almost everywhere where we do not see the sky”, during a debate in the lower house of the parliament in which many parties demanded a national directive.

The liberal leader, however, refuses to make the measure compulsory elsewhere than in public transport, preferring to leave the possibility for traders to refuse entry to a customer without a mask.

This is how Mr Rutte ended up giving in to the pressure exerted by certain politicians and by the growing demand from part of the population for stricter measures, even if he himself remains skeptical: not as if it worked well in Spain and France, ”he recently blurted out.

At the Dutch Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), which advises the government on the procedure to follow since the appearance of the virus, we see, as in other European countries, a sharp increase in cases, and this sooner than expected.

“We are really at the start of the second wave now, especially as we are seeing an increase in hospitalizations and in the number of people admitted to intensive care,” observes Susan van den Hof, director of the RIVM Center for Epidemiology.

“This is probably due to the fact that the measures were relaxed during the summer and that people are less aware and follow the rules less”, analysis with AFP Ms. Van den Hof, who expects a “busy period In hospitals as winter approaches.

But “it is never too late” to act, believes the epidemiologist: “If people start to take the measures seriously and more severe restrictions are put in place for everyone, we can still reverse the trend. “.

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