The Dutch coronavirus warning app is bringing problems for employers and the self employed, because of the requirement that people who are alerted about a contact go into quarantine for 10 days.
The CoronaMelder app, which has been downloaded 2.65 million times so far, alerts users if they have spent 15 minutes in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
However, users who get an alert are not allowed to have a coronavirus test unless they actually develop symptoms. This means they have to stay home for a 10 day period, even if it turns out to be unnecessary.
‘Any self-employed person who has to work on location is not going to jump at the chance of being in quarantine for 10 days, losing clients and income,’ said Natasha Cloutier, a self-employed translator, copywriter and DJ, who works part time in a shop.
‘Paying for a private test is a lot of money. Why would they have that app on their phone if it means losing money?,’ she said. ‘The government’s motto was, “if you have symptoms get tested”, not turn an app on and have it go off every hour to jeopardise your job and income.’
FNV Zelfstandigen, a union for the self employed, says use of the app is complicated because of the impact on income. ‘A freelancer who has to sit at home for 10 days must live off their cash reserves,’ spokeswoman Irene van Hest said. ‘But at a certain point, your reserves are finished. And buffers were not meant to be spent on sitting at home for 10 days anyway.’
Employers organisation VNO-NCW is also concerned about the app, pointing out its members will end up picking up the bill if they need to employ replacement staff.
‘It is a good tool, but the recommendation should be to get a test [if you get a warning],’ spokesman Edwin van Scherrenburg told broadcaster NOS. ‘And test capacity has to be increased, results should be made available faster and we should be using the fast tests as well.’
Some companies are also turning to the private sector to ensure their staff can be tested quickly. The construction and engineering sector organisations, for example, have set up their own fast test service for members.
Pascal Besselink, a labour law specialist from legal aid company DAS, said the official introduction of the app left many questions unanswered, particularly about picking up the bill.
In addition, ‘the group being warned about a positive person could be very large. Do they all have to go into quarantine?’ he said.
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