“In general we use our common sense at sports clubs, at schools and in public transport” (De Jonge, 2020, September 28). This is how deputy prime minister of the Netherlands, Hugo de Jonge, justified the new measurements that were put into place yesterday by the Dutch government. But what if we are not attending a football game, sit in school or travel by bus? What if we are grocery shopping, getting a haircut, or buying a winter coat? Do these situations not count? Why doesn’t the Netherlands make face-masks compulsory: in Germany it seems to be stopping new cases.
By Meike Schridde
***In response to reader comments we have to flag up that some statistics in this article may be misleading. Please see further comment at foot of article***
As the Summer ends and turns to Autumn seasons a combination of factors are coming together that make an even faster increase in Coronavirus cases unavoidable. As the number of cases go up, new regulations are being put into place by the Dutch government to protect the citizens and keep this ‘second wave’ as small as possible. By now, parts of the Netherlands have been declared as a “Corona risk-areas” by other European countries such as Germany, and case numbers are rising rapidly.
The current ‘reproduction rate’ of the Coronavirus in the Netherlands is at 1.3, which means that on average, one person infects 1.3 others. With the virus spreading so quickly, is it right for Dutch government ministers to urge ‘common sense’?
One easy, cheap and most importantly effective measure that could have been implemented is the mandatory wearing of masks in all public places. This includes not only public transport but every grocery store, any shop, doctor; gym, or restaurant… Every enclosed venue that is not your home, so to speak.
It is proven that the infection rate is slowed by masks
Other countries do it too. Germany implemented a mask requirement in mid-April, and studies show that this rule is effective in the fight against Covid-19- slowing the infection rate down. Infectious particles that could escape when speaking, coughing or sneezing are kept behind the mask.
Since the implementation of masks in Germany, there have been 40% less registered cases compared to before, writes Andreas Schmid in the daily Münchner Merkur.
A warning signal
Another benefit of wearing a face-mask is that people are more likely to keep their distance, which should lead to a lower risk of infection.
According to German SPD-politician and health expert Karl Lauterbach, many citizens that are in the so-called “risk-group” would avoid public places if people were not wearing masks. The fact that everyone is required to do so gives them a sense of safety and a lower risk of infection. Wearing a mask is therefore not only protecting yourself but also others around you.
A case study in Jena
The city Jena (with a population of about 110,000- the same size as Leeuwarden) in Thuringia, Germany gives a clear example of the benefits that come from wearing face masks. The city of Jena implemented the mask requirement earlier than all other areas in Germany. Citizens of Jena had to wear masks from April 6 onward, whereas the rest of Germany started around April 27. This was a decision made by the local municipality and the effects paid off. Twenty days after introducing masks, the number of Corona cases in Jena “only” rose from 143 to 158, says one study.
That study compared to the case development of carefully selected cities in Germany (Rostock, Darmstadt, and Trier), which are very similar to Jena in terms of regional population density, the average age of the population, the proportion of senior citizens, and an average number of doctors and pharmacies per inhabitants. The number rose from 143 to 205 within the same time frame for the other cities. Numbers were estimated based on those findings and it can be said that the relative slowing of the Corona case growth rate in Jena is 60.1 percent.
Masks do make a difference
So why doesn’t the Netherlands use some common sense itself, and implement mandatory masks? In the last 24 hours, the Netherlands counted 2914 new cases of Covid-19. Germany reported only 1500 new cases. The starkest difference comes when you compare this relative to population: per 1 million people the Netherlands has about 6562 cases, whilst Germany has only 3471.
Even if the implementation of masks reduced these numbers by 1, it would be worth it. Let’s protect ourselves and the ones around us. Let’s use our common sense and wear masks.
***In response to further reader research, The Northern Times would like to present the following:***
First the ratios in cases in the last 24 hours in absolute and per million people: 2914/1500 (roughly a factor of 2) is almost the same as 6562/3471 (roughly a factor of 2). (Referring to infection spread)
Second, actually 2914 cases/17 million people ~171 cases per 1 million people (not 6562) and for Germany 3471/83 ~ 42 cases per 1 million people. (Referring to the difference between infection spread in the Netherlands and Germany)
***All calculation made at the time of publishing