PM calls Dutch to accept airline vouchers; "Corona-proof" vacations unsafe, Health Min. says

Mark Rutte at a press conference on May 8, 2020
Mark Rutte at a press conference on May 8, 2020RVD/Minister-PresidentFacebook

Prime Minister Mark Rutte asked consumers to show solidarity with the travel organizations and accept a voucher for a flight canceled due to the coronavirus crisis, instead of demanding a refund. Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health warned Dutch against going on "corona-proof" vacations being organized by travel company Corendon. And Minister Martin van Rijn for Medical Care and Sports said it may be possible for professional football to restart before September 1st. 

"I say to consumers: let's show some solidarity with each other," Rutte said during a short press conference after the government's crisis meeting on Wednesday, reports. "I also have a number of airline tickets in the drawer. I get a voucher for that." 

The European Commission previously said that consumers have the right to a refund if their trip got canceled, even during this crisis. Countries that do not give this option are in violation of European law. But so far Europe dit not say anything about countries being punished. "Then we can continue with the vouchers," Rutte concluded, according to the newspaper.

It's a different story if people really need the money, Rutte said. "But the fact that you could go on vacation apparently means that the space was there," he said. He pointed out that people also continue to pay their gym memberships or saxophone teacher even though they can't use them at this time.  

Earlier this week travel company Corendon announced that it wants to start offering "corona-proof" holidays. Travelers will be tested for the coronavirus before departure to a closed resort - where they will have to stay for the duration of their trip. Travelers will also be tested two days into the vacation. 

Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health is against this idea, he said to NOS. According to him, the coronavirus tests purchased by Corendon are not safe. "It is a form of false security," he said. "An all inclusive holiday like this could also be virus inclusive."

Corendon is surprised by the Minister's immediate criticism and dismissal, board chairman Steven van der Heijden said to NPO Radio 1. According to him, the company will use "real corona tests" and not antibody tests, as the Minister suggested. "I find it astonishing that the Minister has come up with such a simplistic response." According to Van der Heijden, his company has been trying to discuss these plans with the government's Outbreak Management Team for some time. "We did not get a word or sign. Then we launch the plans and apparently there is time to respond immediately at cabinet level."

Van der Heijden said that the company has no interest in "false security", as the Minister called it. "Because an infection would directly damage our name and fame." Bookings are not yet possible - Corendon is still working on getting the right tests and discussing destinations - but customers are responding well to the company's plans, Van der Heijden said.

Minister Martin van Rijn for Medical Care and Sports told NOS that it is not set in stone that professional football must be halted until at least September 1. "If it were possible under certain conditions to do it earlier, then I would like to look at it," he said. "It depends under what conditions that could be possible. That is precisely the reason why we asked the KNVB: make a plan, so that we can assess what is and what is not possible. They have expressed their willingness to do so."

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare ans Sports stressed to the broadcaster that supporters should not blindly assume that matches will restart before September. "The KNVB plan must first be submitted to the Outbreak Management Team. They will make a final decision about this."

Football association KNVB told NOS that it is considering the next phase for football. "We are looking at the new reality, the measures and possibilities with a realistic view, regardless of exact data. We do this together with the government," a spokesperson said.