Dutch-Moroccan Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb says he hopes the masks will create a "shock effect" amid growing European resistance to the wearing of face masks.
Rabat – Ahmed Aboutaleb, the mayor of Rotterdam, has announced an immediate Dutch face mask mandate. He joins Amsterdam’s mayor, Femke Halsema, in requiring the wearing of face masks in the Netherlands’ two largest cities. Meanwhile, national policy continues to depend on voluntary participation except for travelers on public transport.
The Dutch response to the unpopular mask mandate
Aboutaleb hopes the mandate will create a “shock effect” and raise awareness among young citizens amid a worrying rise in infections, according to Dutch outlet Nu.nl. “Keeping a distance of 1.5 meters is essential in order to bring the virus under control,” Aboutaleb stressed.
The Dutch-Moroccan mayor of Europe’s largest seaport noticed a particular increase in infections among young people. He took to central Rotterdam to speak directly to students on Tuesday, August 4. “It is possible that we need to once again tighten measures nationally, but that is not my decision,” Aboutaleb stated.
Both Aboutaleb and Halsema are using their emergency powers to implement the unpopular measure. “The law is clear, the Ministry of Health has granted me this authority,” Aboutaleb said. “Who am I to resist my constitutional duties?” he added.
The Netherlands has so far reported 56,705 cases and 6,173 deaths out of 17.3 million citizens. The country has seen a recent increase in confirmed cases with more than 2,500 new cases in the past week, according to Anadolu Agency.
Resistance to preventive measures
The mandate from the Dutch mayors comes amid a growing resistance to face mask wearing among a vocal minority on the continent. Demonstrators organized several protests against face mask mandates in major European capitals. Some alleged the protective gear are “mind control devices.” Approximately 17,000 people gathered in Berlin to protest coronavirus measures. Demonstrators claimed the mandates were undemocratic and some stated that “masks make us slaves.”
The resistance to wearing masks as a case for personal agency is nothing new. From the start of the pandemic, US President Donald Trump famously refused to wear a mask. Even as the American Center for Disease Control recommended the practice, Trump continued to appear in photographs without a mask in an apparent effort to “stick it to the media,” according to the Washington Post. On July 12, however, America caught a first glimpse of Trump wearing a mask. The president said, “I’ve never been against masks but I do believe they have a time and a place.”
Rotterdam’s mayor appears to take a different approach than Trump’s initial position. “The WHO has decided to start a global campaign to get everyone to wear a face mask, the World Health Organization!” Aboutaleb emphasized. “But the debate in the Netherlands has its own dynamics, which I will leave to our national politicians.”