Health Min: Covid access passes necessary with society reopening
The coronavirus access pass system must remain in place for the time being, and cannot simply be cast aside, said Health Minister Ernst Kuipers on Tuesday. He spoke alongside Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who moments earlier announced that most organizations in the Netherlands can open up to the public again from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. The Cabinet wants to "open up society as much as possible, while simultaneously keeping the pandemic under control to some extent,” Kuipers said.
Coronavirus passes will still be necessary for a while, whether in the form of 1G, 2G, or 3G, said the health minister. Current policy in the Netherlands calls for use of the 3G system, where people must prove they are considered fully vaccinated against Covid-19, recently recovered from the coronavirus infections, or have tested negative for the infection within the past 24 hours. The possible introduction of a 2G policy, which no longer grants access to people on the basis of a test result, is already being met with a great deal of resistance from Members of Parliament. In the Tweede Kamer, some parties want to introduce a 1G policy, where everyone must test for access, regardless of vaccination or recovery status.
The possible extension of 3G policies to the workplace also often leads to heated discussions among activists, associations, and politicians.
For the time being, the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions which take effect on Wednesday can only continue with at least the 3G coronavirus access pass, often in combination with 1.5 meters, Kuipers said. The number of infections is now so large, and is growing so fast, that there is a very high chance that one “will encounter someone who is carrying the virus in daily contact.” He said the chance of contact with an infected person is now so great "that, even while you relax policy, you have to build in more precautions.”
Without such precautionary measures, relaxation would pose too great a risk, the minister believes. He acknowledged that an access pass does not guarantee the prevention of infections, but that it only has "a dampening effect" on the number of infections. The extent to which the coronavirus pass can limit the number of infections mainly depends on how frequently the pass is required. "It can have a broad effect if you apply it broadly," explained Kuipers.
Kuipers did not want to pre-empt the discussion of whether 3G should be requested in more situations, and whether 2G should be introduced. There are a number of bills to regulate this, which the Tweede Kamer will consider. Support for 2G has eroded recently, also after a study by TU Delft which shows that the effects of 2G is very limited in the current situation with the Omicron variant. But it is clear that the Cabinet wants to keep 2G in its toolbox as a resource, something which Prime Minister Mark Rutte also said during a recent debate on coronavirus measures.
"Let's not throw it away,” he said to the critical parliamentarians. After all, the same report from TU Delft also contained "some strong arguments" against banning 2G, the prime minister said.
Reporting by ANP.