At the moment, RIVM does not consider it necessary for healthcare personnel to wear a mouth mask as standard. This advice is inconsistent with the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Even if caregivers cannot maintain a constant distance of 1.5 meters, they do not have to wear a mouth mask as standard. Mouth masks are only recommended for some risky activities and if patients (presumably) have COVID-19, according to the RIVM.

On Twitter, several people are surprised that you do not have to wear a mouth mask in the hospital, but in some busy places in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

Field epidemiologist Arnold Bosman, in response to the RIVM advice on healthcare website Zorgvisie, even stated that RIVM ignores the international guidelines for the use of mouth masks by healthcare personnel.

What are those international guidelines? And why are mouth masks not standard in healthcare?

Can someone explain to me why I have to wear a mouth mask in the Bijenkorf and not when visiting a hospital?

AvatarAvatar AuthorRoodenb1AndriesMoment of places19: 16 - 21 August 2020

Advice ECDC and WHO

The WHO wrote on June 5 that health workers in areas affected by the coronavirus should constantly wear a mouth mask when performing their jobs, even when working with people who do not show COVID-19 symptoms.

The reason for this is that people may already be contagious if they have no or only very mild symptoms caused by the corona virus. However, the WHO also writes that there is no hard evidence that the standard use of mouth masks in healthcare actually prevents infections.

The ECDC has largely taken the WHO's advice and writes that countries affected by the coronavirus should consider having all healthcare personnel wear a face mask constantly.

See also: On the basis of which research is the face masks discussion fought?

What does the RIVM say?

The RIVM writes that the corona virus is circulating in the Netherlands, but that the number of infections is currently so small that constant wearing mouth masks is not necessary in healthcare. Even if mouth masks were to prevent infections, they would prevent very few infections at the moment, according to the RIVM.

According to RIVM, a possible disadvantage of mouth masks in healthcare is that they could hinder contact between patient and healthcare provider. In addition, according to the RIVM, current policy has proven itself in practice so far.

How does the current policy work?

The exact interpretation of the policy differs per healthcare institution. For example, the Amsterdam UMC explains that, in addition to all hygiene and distance measures, it screens every visitor or patient as soon as they enter the hospital, according to RIVM advice.

Everyone with an appointment in the hospital will receive a text message in advance with the request not to come just like that if he or she has minor complaints or has been in an area to which the code orange or red applies. Upon arrival, every visitor or patient is asked again whether he or she has any complaints. If someone needs care and has complaints that are consistent with COVID-19, the patient will wear a mouth mask and the staff will also wear personal protective equipment, including a mouth mask. In other cases, a mouth mask is usually not worn.

The staff at the Amsterdam UMC are not checked every day, but must determine for themselves whether they have complaints. If you have complaints, you are not allowed to work until you have a negative test result.

What if there are more infections?

It is possible that the RIVM will adjust the mouth masks advice for healthcare if the number of infections increases. At the moment, according to the RIVM, this is not yet the case. If the number of local infections is high, the GGD can advise institutions such as nursing homes at a regional level to use mouth masks as a precaution.