Thursday 29 September 2022

Government urged not to fall behind with pandemic response

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Government advisers have urged ministers to step up preparations for a potential resurgence of coronavirus in the autumn.

A joint report by 14 organisations, led by the Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR), criticised ministers for putting off decisions on controversial measures such as compulsory vaccination and access passes for venues.

The report considered five possible scenarios for the coming winter, from a mild cold-like infection to a Delta variant-style outbreak, and what measures should be available to deal with each of them.

The WRR said the government should be taking preventive steps now rather than delaying difficult decisions until the virus flares up again.

The cabinet has drafted a permanent coronavirus law to replace the temporary one that was the basis of most of the lockdown measures of the last two years, including mask mandates, social distancing and the evening curfew.

The temporary law expired in June when the Senate voted against a further extension, limiting the Dutch government’s capacity to reintroduce pandemic control measures if infections increase.

Curfew

The Council of State has advised ministers to include a wide range of tools, including a curfew, in the legislation so that it can respond adequately to a major outbreak.

The curfew triggered rioting when it was introduced hastily in January 2021 and was initially struck out by the courts, although the government overturned the ruling on appeal.

The advisers said ministers should be taking action now, while infections are relatively low, to avoid being forced to make disruptive decisions on the spot that erode public confidence.

‘It’s good that the government is thinking in terms of these scenarios, but the next step hasn’t got off the ground,’ Corien Prins, chair of the WRR, said.

‘We need to do that per subject now, while things are relatively quiet. It’s difficult: as citizens we don’t want to think in terms of worst-case scenario’s but that’s what we have politicians for.’

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