Municipalities barely enforcing Covid rules in bars, clubs: Report
Municipalities in the Netherlands are taking little to no action to make sure that hospitality entrepreneurs are enforcing the coronavirus measures, like making sure their customers maintain social distancing, Trouw reports based on its own research.
Since the latest round of lockdown relaxations, hospitality entrepreneurs have no maximum on how many guests they can let inside, as long as the guests can stay 1.5 meters apart. If they choose to forego social distancing, they must enforce Testing for Access - visitors must show on their CoronaCheck app that they tested negative for Covid-19, have been vaccinated against the disease, or recently recovered from it and therefore have immunity.
In the first two weekends that Netherlands residents were allowed to go to pubs and nightclubs again, most municipalities only issued one or two warnings or fines, the newspaper found. And there were clear incidences of things going wrong on those weekends. In Enschede, for example, 180 people tested positive for Covid-19 after a party at nightclub Aspen Valley on June 26.
The municipalities told Trouw that they do not have the capacity for this extra enforcement. Groningen has about five enforcement officers available to check all the bars and clubs in the city. Utrecht said it has six enforcers, Zwolle has four. The municipalities therefore only enforce on "excesses," they said.
"We are not going to constantly check in bars whether the 1.5 meters is being maintained," a spokesperson for the municipality of Haarlem said to the newspaper. "But if we see that things are getting out of hand somewhere, or we get a lot of complaints, for example, then we are on top of it."
Another reason for no large-scale enforcement, is that municipalities want to give entrepreneurs chance to adapt to the new rules. "Of course they are also confronted with something new, " a spokesperson for Maastricht said.
The municipalities also said that they do not like "playing police officer" and count on hospitality entrepreneurs to enforce the rules. "Bar bosses already had a lot of responsibility before corona," Marieke Ruijgrok of the municipality of Utrecht said. "They always had to be attentive." She doesn't believe catering entrepreneurs will be tempted by the income of a packed establishment. "No one is waiting for a corona fine of thousands of euros, especially not in this time."
After two weeks of less than a thousand new coronavirus infections per day, public health institute RIVM reported over 1,500 infections on Monday. Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health called this concerning, saying that the cabinet will intervene if things get out of hand.