No riskier to travel to France than to remain in NL: health bosses

The risk of traveling across the border to some European countries poses no greater risk of catching Covid-19 than remaining in the Netherlands, RIVM head Jaap van Dissel and chief researcher Jacco Wallinga told the public broadcaster NOS in an interview on Saturday.

While, in theory, it has remained possible to leave the Netherlands on vacation ever since the pandemic first broke out, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' March advisory, which warned Netherlands residents against taking non-essential trips abroad, remains in force. However, according to Wallinga​, the risk of contracting the virus in many countries is no greater than it is in the Netherlands.

"If you just look at the chance of infection, it will make little difference in the Netherlands or in France. The general rule is: it is good to avoid crowds and keep a distance. That is the issue with holidays: you sit together in a car, bus or plane for a long time," explained the disease modeling chief.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the cabinet would provide people with more clarity in the week ahead about taking holidays across Dutch borders. One point that remains a concern for the RIVM with respect to cross-border travel is the resulting complication in contact tracing. "If you do get an infection after all, and you're in France, the contact must be found there. And maybe those contacts will be in the Netherlands again," said Wallinga.

However, the overall risk of traveling abroad remains low, Wallinga added, with both health experts pointing out that it is most important for Dutch residents to remember to adhere to the local public health guidelines should they choose to travel abroad.

"You have to adapt to the rules that apply there, and you have to adhere to the Dutch rules [at the same time]," they said.