Will Dutch hand washing habits improve in order to combat coronavirus?

With the announcement today of the second case of coronavirus in the Netherlands, the advice from authorities is to stay hygienic and keep on top of hand washing habits.

The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) revealed today that an Amsterdam resident had tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). This announcement came the day after news broke that a male in Tilburg was infected, the first case in the Netherlands.

The advice from the RIVM regarding measures that people can take to prevent the spread of coronavirus is the same as for all viruses that can cause flu and colds. The two main measures are to wash your hands regularly with soap and water – i.e. after using the bathroom, before preparing food or eating, etc. – and to cough and sneeze onto the side of your elbow, and if you only use your hands, then get to the sink and wash them straight away. And if you’re wondering about face masks: the wearing of these is advised only for medical personnel who are in contact with patients.


Dutch hand-washing habits

With the recent spread of coronavirus at such a rapid rate through northern Italy, citizens across the globe will no doubt become more vigilant with their hygiene routines. Let’s hope so at least.

Five years ago, a Gallup International poll revealed that the Dutch were the least likely to wash their hands with soap and water after using the toilet – only half of all those polled admitted to automatically giving their hands a good scrub, with Italy having only a slightly better result at 57%.

Who knows though: how honest was everyone being during that poll? Perhaps the only reason the Netherlands came out on top was down to good old Dutch directness. The accuracy of the results might be debatable but that’s a discussion for another time.


No new measures at Schiphol currently

Apart from keeping an eye hygiene, the RIVM confirms that there are no new measures being set at this time to change any current policies or to implement extra checks at airports.

As of today, 28 February, the Schiphol airport website has been updated to confirm this, stating: ‘In conjunction with authorities such as the Municipal Health Service (GGD) and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), we are keeping a close eye on developments. We consult with these parties daily about the situation and the measures taken. We are following their advice and sharing it with colleagues and other parties at the airport, including airlines, ground handlers and retailers. No other measures are currently being taken in addition to the previous measures. Schiphol is prepared and has developed various scenarios and contingency plans.’


This is an ongoing situation and it is advisable to check the websites of the relevant authorities to obtain the most up-to-date information.