Coronavirus Measures Introduced In The Netherlands To Stop Second Wave

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Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, August 6, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (re)introduced coronavirus measures in an attempt to halt a second wave of the virus. 

Registering on arrival at restaurants

When the Netherlands came out of lockdown on June 1, there was a rule in place that required members of the public to register their name and contact details upon arrival at any bar, cafe, or restaurant, to ensure any spread of the virus could be traced. However, many establishments stopped asking for this information after only a few weeks. Now, Rutte has reimplemented the rule. 

This means all catering establishments (Horeca) will be required to work on the basis of reservations - either one made in advance, or at the door, and will also have to carry out a health check with all customers. The registration is not mandatory, but is voluntary. 

Furthermore, all recreational establishments - that includes museums, amusement parks, Horeca, cinemas, and theatres - will be forced to close for a maximum of 14 days if they are traced by the GGD to be the source of coronavirus contamination. 

The Horeca union, Royal Horeca Netherlands (Koninklijke Horeca Nederland; KHN) is surprised by the new measures. KHN director, Dirk Beljaarts, told AD: “In one of our last conversations with Justice Minister Grapperhaus, we were told that registration was not an option because of the GDPR.” Beljaarts fears many members of the public will not feel comfortable leaving behind their personal details, and wonders whether the mandatory 14-day closure is necessary for public health, or if it is instead a punitive measure. 

Testing at Dutch airports

By August 14, a test station will be in place at Schiphol to allow for the testing of any travellers upon arrival or departure. Health Minister Hugo de Jonge announced at the press conference that the testing is to make sure travellers aren’t bringing the virus back into the Netherlands with them, and de Jonge hopes it might deter people from wanting to travel in the first place.

Due to current legislation, it will not be possible to force members of the public to be tested. Travellers will instead be requested by staff to get tested at the gate, even if they have no symptoms of the virus. On arrival, anyone who tests positive will have to quarantine at home, and anyone who refuses testing will also have to quarantine for 14 days. The GGD will now be monitoring anyone expected to quarantine. 

Student introduction weeks

Going into the press conference, one question people were asking up and down the country was whether Rutte would cancel student introduction weeks, as he had already voiced concern about the spread of the virus among teenagers and young people. 

The Prime Minister did not cancel introduction weeks, but told universities and student associations to organise events for student introduction weeks online as much as possible. Any physical activities can only take place in small groups, without any alcohol, and must end no later than 10 pm. The director of the relevant education establishment and security region must both approve the event before it will be allowed to take place. 

Rutte did ban any hazing or initiation rituals from taking place. Esther Hollestelle, head of the Unitas student association, told AT5: “This is the worst possible start to student days for prospective students. They cannot make new social contacts, they do not get to know the city. You quickly feel lonely in these times, especially now that everyone is so looking for camaraderie.”

In the press conference, Rutte highlighted that young people were not particularly good at sticking to the coronavirus measures, and the GGD also voiced concern about the spread of the virus among students. 

Regional coronavirus measures

Prime Minister Rutte also gave permissions to security regions to implement whatever measured they deem necessary to prevent and control the sources of coronavirus outbreaks. 

Safety regions have the following powers:

  • Limiting the opening hours of horeca 
  • Introducing behavioural measures (i.e. mandatory face masks, a rule currently in place in Amsterdam and Rotterdam)
  • Closing locations (i.e. parks or shopping centres)
  • Managing public and traffic flow in busy areas 
  • Enforcing rules and monitoring compliance with these rules 
  • Prohibiting large-scale gatherings 

The government has said these new measures have been put in place to prevent implementing a second lockdown. “The virus is on a dangerous advance, the figures do not lie,” Rutte said, “Our message is simple: we don't want a second lockdown.”

Coronavirus press conference

This was the first government press conference to take place since June 3. It was announced on Tuesday that Rutte and de Jonge would be cutting their summer holidays short to hold a press conference and address concerns regarding the rising coronavirus infections. Numbers published by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) revealed that between the morning of August 5 and August 6, 601 new people tested positive for the virus, almost 200 more than the previous day. 

Opposition in the House of Representatives has stated they feel Rutte is not doing enough to curb the spread of the virus. Lodewijk Asscher, leader of the Labour Party (PvdA), told NOS: “The coronavirus continues to advance, while not everyone is tested, there is uncertainty about the ventilation, and the elderly and schools are concerned. The GGD indicates that they barely keep up with the pace of infections. You can’t solve all this with one statement. The cabinet must be more ambitious. Otherwise, a disaster threatens the economy and health." Geert Wilders has also said he believes the government is unprepared for a second peak.

Nearly 3,57 million people tuned in to watch the press conference on Thursday. It was therefore viewed slightly more than the last press conference in June, which had 3,4 million viewers.