Senate rejecting temporary Covid law "a real inconvenience": Health Min.
Minister Ernst Kuipers of Public Health finds the gap between the voted down temporary coronavirus law and the introduction of the revised Public Health Act (Wpg) "a real inconvenience." The Cabinet now has no legal basis for imposing restrictive measures if the coronavirus flares up again.
Kuipers said this before the Senate voted on the fifth extension of the temporary coronavirus law, making one last, unsuccessful attempt to persuade a majority to vote for the extension and not leave a gap.
Only the coalition parties - VVD, D66, CDA, and ChristenUnie - voted for the extension. The other factions, which together have a majority in the Senate, voted against it.
Kuipers will submit the revised law to parliament at the end of August. He'll submit the bill to experts in early June. And then third parties can comment on it. The new law will only come into effect at the end of this year if parliament and the Senate approve it. And only then will the Cabinet again have a legal basis to impose restrictive measures around the coronavirus, like the obligation to wear face masks in certain places.
Now that there is a gap with no legal basis, Kuipers will see if he can submit the new law faster so that both parliament and the Senate can vote on the amendment sooner. This may be at the expense of the consultation round. Kuipers is hesitant to skip that step, he said during the debate in the Senate about the fifth extension of the temporary coronavirus law.
"If there is an emergency" and restrictive measures are vital, Kuipers will resort to emergency ordinances during the gap. That was how the government operated in the first coronavirus wave before the temporary law took effect. Kuipers would "prefer not to do that" but will if necessary. He pointed to the rapidly increasing number of coronavirus infections in the United States in the debate. Some states have already introduced face masks again. "It's an erratic virus," Kuipers said. He expects that the Netherlands will also not escape a sharp rise in infections.
In the temporary law, parliament did not have a say on restrictive measures before their implementation but could withdraw measures afterward. As soon as the Wpg comes into effect, measures will have to be submitted to parliament and the Senate for approval in advance.
Reporting by ANP