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'Making wearing face masks mandatory violates constitutional rights'

The Dutch government will be unable to make wearing face masks mandatory in public spaces in the short term, according to three constitutional and administrative law experts in NRC newspaper, including Wim Voermans.

Wim Voermans

Due to the recent increase in cases of corona infections in the Netherlands, the issue of a more general obligation to wear face masks has entered the public debate. At the moment in the Netherlands you are only required to wear a face mask when using public transport. In many other European countries, however, face masks are also mandatory in shops, restaurants or even just out on the streets. The government recently decided to ask the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) for advice about whether the use of face masks in the Netherlands should be made obligatory more broadly.  

According to the professors who contributed in the NRC (in Dutch), making wearing face masks mandatory would be in breach of Article 10 of the Constitution, which states that everyone shall have the right to respect of their privacy. Wim Voermans takes as an example the burka ban that was introduced last summer: ‘Mayors wanted to regulate the ban at the local level, but this was not possible without a separate Act of Parliament.'

And it will take time to introduce such a separate Act of Parliament. The government proposed special corona legislation, but that will not be considered in Parliament until after summer.

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