Face mask rule won’t apply to churches because they are ‘private’ institutions


The cabinet has no plans to extend the requirement to wear face masks to churches, synagogues and mosques when the new law is introduced next month, justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus has said in answer to MPs’ questions.

MPs say they are surprised that face masks will become law in cinemas, libraries and museums from December 1 but not in places of worship. The exemption was made clear last week when the government published more details about the introduction of compulsory masks.

Grapperhaus told MPs religious buildings are not being singled out as special cases, broadcaster NOS reported. ‘The exemption covers all places which are private, and that includes churches and mosques,’ he said. Face masks will not be required in offices or club buildings either, the minister pointed out.

In addition, the minister said, most churches, mosques and synagogues already require worshippers to wear a mask, which they can only remove when seated.

The question of masks in churches was raised last week when prime minister Mark Rutte told reporters he had ‘no idea’ why they were not covered by the new regulation. ‘I’m going to find out for you,’ Rutte said.

Last month, churches were told to limit the number of worshippers to 30, hold services online as much as possible and ban singing to conform with new coronavirus restrictions.

The message followed the uproar over the Bible belt village of Staphorst in Overijssel, where the local Protestant church held three services for up to 600 people.

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