Tuesday 22 September 2020

Health minister forced to backtrack on quarantine plan after MP protests

Hugo de Jonge during the debate. Photo: Remko de Waal ANP

Health minister Hugo de Jonge has been forced to backtrack on his plans to introduce compulsory quarantine for people arriving in the Netherlands from risky countries, and for people who come up as potential carriers of coronavirus in contact tracing probes.

Following strong criticism from across the political spectrum in Wednesday’s parliamentary debate, De Jonge agreed to first refer the measure to the government’s Outbreak Management Team.

In addition, he said, he would not bring in quarantine until MPs have had the opportunity to fully discuss the issue. Nevertheless, the policy should be introduced as soon as possible on public health grounds, the minister said.

Rob Jetten, leader of the ruling liberal democratic party D66, described the government’s u-turn on quarantine as ‘panicky’ and a ‘diversionary tactic’. The government should be encouraging people to respect the rules, not threaten them with legal action, Jetten said.

Other MPs called on the government to come up with ways to help people who are forced to stay at home, such as compensation for any loss of income or a shopping service.

Meanwhile, the 25 public safety regions have said they back compulsory quarantine for people who have been in close contact with coronavirus patients. And association chairman Hubert Bruls said he was ‘very disappointed’ that MPs did not agree to making this possible.

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