Grapperhaus calls for better local measures to prevent autumn lockdown

Bars reopened in June last year. A month later infections started to rise. Photo:
Bars reopened in June last year. A month later infections started to rise. Photo:

Local measures should be used to contain new variants of coronavirus before they trigger a new wave of infections and hospital cases in the autumn, justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus has said.

Grapperhaus admitted that the local measures introduced last summer had failed, but mayors and health board chiefs had a key role to play in preventing outbreaks spreading further.

Last year infections started to increase from mid-July, but the first local restrictions were not imposed until the end of September, by which time more than 600 people were in hospital with the virus.

The measures that were taken, such as shutting bars at midnight with a maximum of 50 guests, were too weak to make an impact and prime minister Mark Rutte eventually announced a partial lockdown on October 13.

‘The plan we came up with together last summer wasn’t great, we have to accept that, primarily as a cabinet,’ Grapperhaus said.

The minister will hold a video conference on July 12 with the mayors responsible for the 25 safety board regions to draw up a ‘made-to-measure’ approach and prevent another nationwide lockdown becoming necessary.

Grapperhaus also said the ‘test for entry’ system for venues such as nightclubs needed to be tightened up in the wake of the opening weekend.

The testing system was held up by multiple delays, leading to long queues outside venues and makeshift solutions such as rapid tests on the door or giving people negative test codes for access even if their actual results were not known. Some clubbers claimed they had been able to get in without taking a test by taking screengrabs of other people’s QR codes.

Grapperhaus said venue owners had to take responsibility for the safety of everyone they allowed through the door. If the door screening policy fails, mayors should use their powers to shut down the clubs. ‘Don’t tell me it’s difficult, we’ve been having talks about this for months,’ he said.

Hubert Bruls, mayor of Nijmegen and chair of the regional safety board council, said the infrastructure underpinning the system needed to be reliable. ‘This wasn’t a flawless operation and it shouldn’t take weeks to get it right. But if thousands of people can’t get in, you have a public order problem as well.’

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