Face Masks and Social Distancing in Amsterdam
- Face masks are mandatory in certain areas of Amsterdam.
- Amsterdam has introduced stricter measures in response to an uptick in coronavirus infections.
Face masks, anyone? Amsterdam is one of the hotspots when it comes to the number of new infections. Only Rotterdam has seen a higher number of new coronavirus patients over the past few weeks.
Many people no longer closely adhere to the basic anti-corona rules that have been in place from the end of March. As a result, the number of infections has been steadily on the rise.
In the Netherlands, the basic rules introduced in March continue to apply:
Basic COVID-19 Rules in the Netherlands
- Avoid crowds
- Work from home if at all possible
- Keep a distance of 1,5 metres (5 feet) between yourself and others (except if they are members of your household)
- If you have any health issues, such as a cold or flu, stay at home. If you are short of breath and/or have a fever other members of your household must also stay at home.
- Cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow. Use paper tissues and toss them into a bin right-away.
- Wash your hands
- Don’t shake hands, hug, or kiss with non-family members
- When traveling on public transport, wearing a (non-medical) face mask is mandatory.
Additional COVID-19 Rules in Amsterdam
The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) recently concluded that the act of wearing a face mask can affect public behavior. According to the institute it leads people to be more cautious and increase the distance between each other.
Therefore the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam are running a trial to determine if this is actually the case:
Face masks mandatory in parts of Amsterdam
As the number of coronavirus infections has started to rise again, the Security Region Amsterdam-Amstelland has taken additional measures.
- Since August 5 it is mandatory for everyone 13 and older to wear a non-medical mask in several parts of Amsterdam:
- Kalverstraat and Nieuwendijk (shopping streets)
- Albert Cuyp street market
- Plein ’40-’45 street market
- Red Light District
The trial runs until the end of the day on August 31. If successful the measure will be extended.
The test runs in crowded places where it is often not possible to adhere to the 1.5 meter (5 feet) social distancing rule. The trial that also runs in the city of Rotterdam.
The legal basis for these measures is an emergency ordinance (Dutch: Noodverordening).
Face Masks: Enforcement and Fines
Those who do not wear a mask within the designated areas risk a fine of €95 per occasion. A fine is also issued if you do not wear your mask correctly — covering both nose and mouth.
Before the announcement enforcement was spotty at best. The City hired people who try to encourage people to wear their masks. But without consequences few people do.
Locals upset at lack of compliance and enforcement
On social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, many Amsterdam residents complain about the near lack of handhaving (enforcement).
Merchants upset at the rules
At the same time merchants in the streets affected are livid. They blame the masks rule for a drop in foot traffic, and the resulting lack of income.
This despite the fact that merchant organizations had themselves asked the City to make wearing face masks mandatory in their shopping streets.
Stricter Enforcement in Amsterdam
After a lengthy City Council Meeting, Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema last Tuesday announced that enforcement of measures already in place will stepped up.
Bars, cafes, and restaurants now face stricter monitoring for compliance with rules to slow the spread of the virus.
The Municipality of Amsterdam will act faster when it encounters violations, Halsema said during the press conference.
For instance, catering establishments in violation of coronavirus rules will receive one warning. If they re-offend they will have to close for up to four weeks.
In case of excesses a business will have to close immediately.
The stricter approach also covers conference centers and other business that rent out meeting rooms.
Additional COVID-19 Measures Possible
If necessary Mayor Femke Halsema may take additional steps. One possible measure is a mandatory closing time for horeca establishments. (Horeca is a Dutch term for the hotel- and food service industry: Hotels, Restaurants, and Catering).
Another measure may be to limit the number of people who can gather in one place.
Incidentally, throughout the Netherlands people are expected to entertain no more than six guests at a time in their homes.
Amsterdam Tourism Discouraged?
Some confusion arose from a statement in a letter the mayor wrote on behalf of the security region. Day trippers and tourists would be discouraged from visiting Amsterdam.
In an interview with news analysis show Nieuwsuur, the mayor qualified the statement. ‘we are not making that call now. We are keeping that measure as a possibility.’
Halsema says the City prefers not to do so. According to her it would be “disastrous” for the hotel industry.
Amsterdam: Everything’s Open, But Restrictions Apply
Of course, some restrictions apply. Museums, for instance, allow far fewer people than usual to visit at any given time. You’ll have to purchase timed-entry tickets in advance. (That’s good practice even in non-corona times).
Most restaurants work with reserved seating only. And many smaller establishments have switched to home delivery.
Oh, and there are great hotel deals right now.
This article was first published on August 24, 2020. It was last updated on August 25, 2020.
See also: No More Overtourism, for now
The coronavirus pandemic has stopped Amsterdam’s overtourism problem in its tracks. Many Amsterdammers rejoice about that.