Covid testing for access, travel needed for months yet
Netherlands residents will have to live with using the CoronaCheck app to get access to events or travel abroad for months yet, various virologists and epidemiologists said to BNR. They expect the Testing for Access system to be in use at least until after the coming winter.
The CoronaCheck app gives you a QR code if you tested negative for Covid-19, are fully vaccinated against the virus, or recently recovered from it and therefore have protection. This QR code can be used to gain access to large events like festivals or football matches, or to travel within the European Union. This system will be in place for as long as is needed, and when that need will end is still far from clear.
"In my opinion, it will be determined by the coming winter: if the vaccination rate makes the healthcare burden manageable, we are in principle safe and monitoring can become less explicit," Louis Kroes, professor of virology at LUMC, said to BNR. "However, this is not yet known. Nor is it known what governments and advisers will accept as 'manageable'. If this winter is weathered well, then the policy for next summer can be a lot more relaxed and shifted more to personal responsibility."
"The reality is that we will be stuck with it for a while," virologist Ab Osterhaus agreed. "But at some point, when the vaccination rate allows it, you let it go. The best remedy is when we will be at a vaccination rate of 90 percent." Until then, it makes sense to give people who were vaccinated opportunities to do things through the QR code system, he said. "That's not so strange at all. I've never heard anyone protest against taking the yellow booklet on a long journey. QR codes are a way out of this crisis."
According to immunologist Ger Rijkers, the QR codes can only be ditched once it is known what proportion of the population is vaccinated and what effect that will have on infections. "The number of infections must have been stable for quite some time [when the system is scrapped]. Winter is a potential bottleneck, so maybe it's better to look at spring," he said. "I think we will see this autumn what the ultimate vaccination rate will be."
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Health told BNR that it will only keep using the QR codes as long as it has added value. "Just like it is now, for example, a way of admitting more people to football stadiums. The agreement with parliament is that we only use it for that reason. As soon as parliament has the idea that we are going too far in this, it can be stopped."
The Ministry does not want to speculate how long the system will be in use. "This crisis always shows that much is uncertain and little can be predicted. For example, you don't know what variants are emerging," the spokesperson said.
The testing for access system is currently not being used much, since the government limited large events again last month. The system turned out to be far from watertight, with coronavirus outbreaks at nightclubs, student parties, and festivals. Small, one-day festivals will be allowed again from August 14. Larger, multi-day events are banned until at least September.