No mandatory coronavirus tests for travelers arriving from Covid hotspots: Report

Departure and Arrival halls at Schiphol
Departure and Arrival halls at Schipholnanka-photoDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

The Netherlands decided against mandatory testing of asymptomatic travelers who arrive in the country from destinations with a high number of coronavirus infections, government sources told broadcaster NOS on Friday. The broadcaster said it was not legally possible to force someone into quarantine, particularly if it is not known if they present an actual public health risk. An official announcement from the Cabinet was expected at some point on Friday.

Currently, people entering the Netherlands are advised to self isolate for two weeks upon arrival from a country classified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as "code red", where people should not visit under any circumstances, or "code orange," where people should only visit under extraordinary circumstances. That advice will be more urgently stressed to those passengers, NOS reported, based on information from unnamed sources.

Arriving passengers could be contacted at random by municipal health service GGD to see if they are complying with the advice. The Cabinet has not yet determined how to register passengers who need to be contacted, but passenger manifests could be used in the process, the broadcaster stated. The Cabinet will also lean on employers, academic institutions and schools to also ask their employees and students to remain at home following a holiday, regardless of the mode of transport. Students returning, but who are absent from schools, will not be considered truant if they follow online coursework from their schools. An advertising campaign to reinforce the message is also likely, NOS said.

The Cabinet has been facing growing pressure to implement more measures to prevent a second wave of infections, including the testing of travelers flying in to Dutch airports. So far, over 300 people have been blocked from entering the country in violation of the Dutch entry ban implemented in mid-March. In the 14-day leading up to this past Tuesday, 185 people tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus after returning back from a trip abroad.

When the pandemic first hit the Netherlands in late February and early March, many coronavirus infections were traced back to returning winter sports enthusiasts. Fears are rising that returning summer vacationers will trigger a second wave of the virus. The government therefore asked its Outbreak Management Team to advise on whether or not it is a good idea to test everyone coming from a risk area.

Risk areas here refers to places with a code orange travel advice due to the coronavirus. Under this advice, Netherlands residents are strongly discouraged from visiting the area unless it is absolutely necessary. 

Currently incoming travelers, like everyone else in the Netherlands, can only get tested for the coronavirus if they start showing symptoms. But the coronavirus can be contagious before the carrier shows symptoms. People who come from places with a code orange travel warning are therefore urged to quarantine at home for two weeks on arrival in the Netherlands. But as this quarantine period is not mandatory, there is no guarantee that it is adhered to.