Dutch parliament supports law that will regulate coronavirus tracking app
A majority in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, supports Health Minister Hugo de Jonge's emergency bill that must regulate the use of the government's coronavirus notification app. MPs still have questions and criticisms, but it is clear that the Minister will most likely get the majority vote when parliament votes on the bill on Thursday, NOS reports.
The idea behind the CoronaMelder app is that it will make source and contact tracing easier for health service GGD. The app uses Bluetooth to register the location of other smartphones that also have the app installed. If a CoronaMelder user tests positive for the coronavirus, the GGD can use the app to notify all other app-users who had been in close vicinity with the patient for more than 15 minutes. The government planned to launch the app nationally on September 1, but De Jonge decided to delay this launch until after his bill is implemented.
Many parties in parliament stressed that it is good to use digital means in fighting the spread of the pandemic, but almost the entire Kamer also stressed that there must be complete clarity on what people should do if the app notifies them that they were in contact with a Covid-19 patients.
De Jonge said that the general policy remains that people should only get tested if they have symptoms, but he added that these guidelines may be adjusted once the app is released. Parliamentarians from various parties said that the app must not result in people who use the app being tested, while people who don't use the app can't make an appointment.
The Kamer also emphasized that "human" source and contact tracing must remain important and be further expanded. A few also raised concerns about the "meager" agreements with Apple and Google regarding the use of data collected by the app.
De Jonge stressed that the app is "nothing more and nothing less" than a tool. "It is not the only solution, but one of the tools." He acknowledged that he will only really be able to assess the effects of the app once it is live.
Most parliamentarians appreciated the legal guarantees in De Jonge's bill. These include that use of the app is completely voluntary, and people must not be pressured to use it.
It is not yet clear how big a majority supports the bill. Aside from the government parties, at least GroenLinks, PvdA, SGP and 50Plus seem likely to vote for the bill. Far-right parties PVV and FvD, and animal party PvdD are firmly opposed.
If the bill is passed by the Tweede Kamer on Thursday, it still has to go through the Eerste Kamer, the Dutch Senate. When it will be implemented, and when the app will launch, is not yet clear.