Tuesday’s press conference saw Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge deliver what was likely disappointing news for everybody: with hospitalisations once again on the rise, the current package of restrictions had to be expanded in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Only a few weeks ago, the Dutch government said it hoped to lift all remaining restrictions on November 1. So, how has the Netherlands reacted to the new – and relatively last-minute – coronavirus measures?
Changes to coronavirus certificate system met with frustration
The latest changes to the coronavirus certificate system will see QR codes become mandatory across a wider range of sectors and businesses. A spokesperson for the Dutch Museum Association explained the new rule would saddle museums across the country with extra costs and fewer visitors, making it all the more important that “a concrete recovery plan is drawn up quickly for the cultural sector.”
Various sporting associations are also frustrated by the news, as now everyone over the age of 18 – whether amateur or professional – will be required to present proof of vaccination, proof of recovery or a negative test. The National Hockey Association (KNHB) said the measure poses a “major risk” to fair competition. “This makes low-threshold sports impossible for everyone,” the KNHB argued. “And the control for associations around training and competitions is very difficult to maintain.”
Under the new rules, bars, restaurants and cafes will now also be required to check certificates for customers seated outdoors. Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN), the largest union representing hospitality businesses in the Netherlands, called the rule change “symbol politics.” “It [will] have a major financial impact on our members,” said chief Robèr Willemsen.
Medical experts worry the Netherlands isn’t doing enough
Some health experts aren’t particularly happy either. Aura Timen, head of the Centre for National Coordination of Infectious Disease Control, has warned that the government must take strong and decisive action in order to prevent another Christmas lockdown: “If the numbers increase further, the overload in healthcare can become enormous.”
The national association of nurses and carers (NU’91) also reported that the majority of their members felt the new measures wouldn’t go far enough in preventing the spread of coronavirus in the Netherlands. Around 95 percent of the 2.000 members “do not believe these measures will turn the tide,” a spokesperson said.
Speaking to AD, professors Bas van den Putte and Arjen Boin were critical about Tuesday’s press conference. Van den Putte, professor of Health Communication in Amsterdam, said that after the relaxations in September, it was “very predictable” more restrictions would be needed. Meanwhile, Boin, professor of Public Institutions and Governance in Leiden, called the government’s decisions over the past few weeks “an epic failure.”
Dutch police complain rules will now be even harder to enforce
Dutch police and community service officers (BOAs) are also concerned about the new measures, explaining that it will now be even harder to ensure people and businesses are sticking to the rules.
“It would have been better if the cabinet had relaxed step by step, as has happened in many other countries,” Gerrit van de Kamp, chair of the ACP police union, said. “Now we have to tighten up the rules again and that causes ambiguity and confusion among people and there is also a group that is angry.”