Amsterdam enforces face masks in crowded places

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Amsterdam and the port of Rotterdam on Wednesday made face masks compulsory in certain busy areas including the Dutch capital’s Red Light district, as coronavirus infections showed a worrying spike.

The new measures come as the number of infections doubled in a week in the country, where more than 55,000 people have now been infected and some 6,150 have died.

“We’re starting this experiment because we’re worried about the increasing number of coronavirus infections,” the Amsterdam city council said.

“Face masks are compulsory in crowded and busy areas and where other measures didn’t work or have adverse economic effects,” it said in a statement.

Despite council workers handing out free face masks, a mobile van with loudspeakers and police warning people, not everybody heeded the new measures, especially in the Red Light district.

City workers on Wednesday handed out leaflets to tourists and residents, most of whom do not currently wear masks, explaining the new rules. Failure to wear a mask could lead to a fine of 95 euros ($112).

Like other European countries, the Netherlands is facing a spike in coronavirus cases after it eased lockdown measures on July 1. On Tuesday, health authorities reported new cases had doubled in the past week to 2,588, with clusters among young adults and in major cities.

In the past week Amsterdam has ordered the closure of several bars and one strip club where clusters were detected among staff and recent customers.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte is cutting short a vacation to address the country on Thursday about the rising cases.

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