Health Min. postpones stricter Covid access policy pending further research
Health Minister Ernst Kuipers asked parliament not to vote on the bill for a stricter coronavirus access policy that refuses unvaccinated people. He first wants to do further research to see in which circumstances the 2G access policy is a "proportional measure" to use. Kuipers made this appeal on the same day that coalition party ChristenUnie and opposition party GroenLinks pledged support for a proposal to scrap the 2G bill, NOS and Het Parool report.
The Netherlands currently works on a 3G access policy. It allows access to the catering sector, among other things, to people who have been vaccinated against, recently recovered from, or tested negative for Covid-19. The 2G policy only allows people vaccinated against or recently recovered from Covid-19. This means that unvaccinated people who didn't recently have Covid-19 won't be able to access the catering sector and the like.
The Cabinet considers the 2G policy a better way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But the plan has been facing major opposition for months. A recent study on behalf of the Ministry of Public Health also found that the 2G policy won't be very effective against the high number of infections caused by the currently dominant Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
On Tuesday, parliament was set to vote on a motion filed by the SGP and parliamentarian Pieter Omtzigt to scrap the 2G bill. With ChristenUnie and GroenLinks' support, the motion would likely have had majority support. The other left-wing opposition party PvdA and GroenLinks often vote together. But even if the PvdA continued to support the 2G plan, there is currently no majority for it in the Senate. All other opposition parties are against it.
The ChristenUnie's attitude is a setback for the Cabinet, but not a surprise. CU parliamentarian Mirjam Bikker often spoke out against the 2G policy, suggesting a 1G policy instead, in which everyone - vaccinated or not - must test negative for Covid-19 to get an access pass.
In his weekly press conference on Friday, Prime Minister Mark Rutte acknowledged that the 2G policy would be less effective with the currently very high number of infections than lower infection rates. But he added that it would still have a dampening effect on the infection figures. And the Netherlands will need every method possible to lower the number of infections, especially because more measures have been relaxed, he said.
"We think that is an acceptable risk, but it does mean that you have to use the entire set of instruments," he said. Many of the Netherlands' neighbors are using the 2G policy and have fewer restrictions in place, he pointed out. In the Netherlands, people want to be as open as other countries and not use the 2G access policy, he said. "It cannot be and, and."