09 August 2022, by Victoria Séveno
The Dutch government’s plan to introduce a permanent coronavirus law in the autumn has been met with severe backlash from mayors, municipalities, and the GGD. The law would allow the cabinet more power when it comes to introducing new restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but opponents argue the legislation is unclear.
Dutch government drafts new permanent coronavirus law
The draft legislation would be introduced as an amendment to the national Public Health Act, and would serve to replace the temporary emergency law – dubbed the coronawet – which was introduced at the start of the pandemic. The coronawet allowed the cabinet to take action and introduce various coronavirus restrictions, such as the face mask mandate and lockdown measures, but came to an end in May after the final restrictions were lifted.
Now, looking to the future and fearing another pandemic or another COVID wave as the weather cools and summer turns to autumn, Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s cabinet has put together a plan to reintroduce similar legislation – the key difference being that this law would be permanent instead of temporary, meaning it wouldn’t require the approval of the Senate (Eerste Kamer) in order to remain in effect.
Mayors and municipalities argue law was rushed and is unclear
However, various national associations and experts have criticised what they’ve labelled as a rush job. The Association of Mayors, the Association of Dutch Municipalities, and the Security Council told Trouw that the draft law leaves a lot to be desired and would not ensure a “robust system” to fight a pandemic, as it would only lead to confusion in regards to the responsibilities and powers of different bodies. GGD and GHOR, the municipal health services, have also expressed their concerns, agreeing that the law about isolation and quarantine rules remains unclear.
The Associations are concerned because they were not involved in drafting the law. “This important bill has become a rush job. It contained all sorts of inaccuracies and was sent for consultation just before the summer holidays. We believe: if you do it, do it well,” Joost Keemink-Haane, an advisor for the Association of Mayors, told Trouw.
A spokesperson for Health Minister Ernst Kuipers told Trouw that the Dutch government was also dissatisfied with the proposed legislation, but said the cabinet felt the need to ensure they had the legal basis required in order to intervene should another wave hit this year. “We would have preferred more time, but this is the consequence of the Senate voting down the temporary law,” they explained.