Health Ministry pushing meal deliverers to install coronavirus app: report

The Dutch coronavirus tracking app Coronamelder is tested on a smartphone. 7 July 2020
The Dutch coronavirus tracking app Coronamelder is tested on a smartphone. 7 July Photos

The Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sports sent an email to the Dutch association for meal delivery services NLVVM, asking employers to have their meal deliverers install the government's coronavirus notification app, NRC reports. That while Health Minister Hugo de Jonge told parliament that employers were not allowed to push their employees to install the CoronaMelder.

The email to NLVVM states that various organizations must use the CoronaMelder, so that as many people as possible have the app. The idea is for the app to help with source and contact tracing. It uses Bluetooth technology to exchange location data with other smartphones with the app installed that comes within its vicinity. If someone tests positive for Covid-19, the app can be used to notify all other app users that they were in close contact with a source.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Health told NRC that the Ministry was not allowed to ask this of meal deliverers, and that it should have been emphasized that the app is completely voluntary. The Ministry will look at the wording of similar messages sent to other organizations. According to the newspaper, these messages were sent to hospitals, schools and sports associations. 

The NLVVM told the Ministry that it can only inform its employees about the app. 

Various parliamentarians raised concerns that Netherlands resident will feel pressured to use this app. D66 MP Kees Verhoeven was critical of the email sent to the NLVVM. "This is stretching the gray area at the expense of true voluntariness. The government puts pressure on the industry, the industry on the company, the company on the personnel. Such an industry or company would like to receive another assignment from the government," he said to NRC.

GroenLinks MP Kathalijne Buitenweg said: "These are not scandalous texts, but it is not how I thought in the debate that the Ministry would give substance to this. It is fine for the government to advertise the app, as long as the choice lies with the citizen."

A hotline was already established where abuse of the CoronaMelder can be reported, for example if a company forces its employees to install the app. This hotline falls under the Health and Youth Care Inspectorate.

The CoronaMelder was supposed to be launched nationally on September 1, but De Jonge postponed the launch until after the law that will regulate its use is implemented. When that will be is not yet clear. The app was already being tested in five GGD regions - Drenthe, IJsselland, Noord- en Oost-Gelderland, Gelderland-Zuid, and Twente.