Rutte: Broad lockdown measures now, limited 2G Covid passes later
NL Times also produced a simple, bullet-point list of all new coronavirus restrictions taking effect on Nov. 13.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the Cabinet will face a series of new, stricter coronavirus measures to take effect on Saturday at 6 p.m., the impact of which will be evaluated on December 3. When the rules are set to expire, businesses required to check visitors for coronavirus access passes will be allowed to choose for themselves if they want to exclude people who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19, or who have not recovered from the disease.
The announcement was made at a press conference on Friday evening. The new measures are expected to slash coronavirus infections by 20 percent. Over 13,000 people tested positive each of the past seven days, on average, including over 16,000 people on both Thursday and Friday, according to the RIVM.
"I understand that this gives rise to the thought, "Ah yes, here we go again," said Health Minister Hugo de Jonge. He defended the re-introduction of coronavirus restrictions, saying that the situation would have been far worse a year ago when nobody was vaccinated. "Otherwise, healthcare would already be overwhelmed," he stated. "Every jab makes us stronger."
Lockdown-like restrictions for three weeks, Sinterklaas can continue
The far-reaching restrictions include rules that essential shops like supermarkets and drugstores, as well as restaurants, cafes and bars, will all have to close from 8 p.m. Those visiting a catering location will be required to show their coronavirus access passes to gain entry, and will have to remain in an assigned seat.
Those attending higher education will have to return back to earlier restrictions of a maximum of 75 people, excluding staff, per space. This includes research universities, applied sciences universities, and higher vocational schools. The limitation applies to independent spaces, like classrooms, lecture halls, laboratories and workshops. It does not apply to areas where midterm exams and finals are held.
Non-essential shops and service providers, including hairstylists, will have to close their doors at 6 p.m. Event organizers, which were expected to be required to cancel events, will still be allowed to operate, provided the events end at 6 p.m. A maximum of 1,250 people will be allowed per venue in assigned seats only, and access passes will still be required.
"I assume that Sinterklaas will visit different places in the country at various times," said Rutte about the story around the upcoming winter gift-giving holiday. "I think that can continue," he said.
Sports competitions at the professional and amateur level will be allowed to continue without an audience. At the same time, concert halls, cinemas and theaters can continue to host guests. Those venues also do not need to close their businesses nightly at 6 p.m.
Additionally, Rutte offered several pieces of "very, very urgent" advice. These include accepting no more than four visitors in a household per day, continuing to keep 1.5 meters distance from others, and going into quarantine when a housemate tests positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection. The quarantine advisory applies to vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
Testing negative for Covid won't be enough, in some places
Eventually, entrepreneurs should be allowed to choose between the current coronavirus pass system with other restrictions, or a tighter system but with no further restrictions, Rutte said. He argued that business owners should be free to choose whether they want to allow people into their businesses who are not fully vaccinated against Covid-19, or if they have not recovered from the coronavirus infection.
Rutte said the Cabinet wants business owners to be allowed to choose between this form of coronavirus access pass system, known as 2G, or the current system which also permits people who have tested negative for the coronavirus infection within 24 hours. That is known as the 3G access pass system.
The choice is largely intended for the hospitality businesses, Rutte said. When a company opts for the 3G system, they will only be allowed to host guests who have a fixed seat. Those choosing the 2G system will face no additional restrictions.
When questioned about this policy choice, he said, "I think this decision is absolutely defensible."
De Jonge is an advocate for the 2G rule, though up until now he has largely said he was not in favor of separate restrictions for the vaccinated and unvaccinated as it could cause a division in society. He wants this system in place in bars where many infections take place, and then those who acquire the virus go on to infect others.
"We've all had the chance to get ourselves vaccinated. We can't wait for the virus to really go away. We have to learn to live with that virus and this is one way to do that," De Jonge said.
However, it will be difficult to implement as the government will need a change in existing law to get majority support in Parliament. "Achieving that will help us reopen society and keep it open," De Jonge said.