From Tuesday, travelers from China will only be allowed to enter the Netherlands with a negative corona test. Everyone is also immediately asked to wear a face mask on the flight to and from China. Minister Kuipers for health, welfare and sport announces this in a letter to the Danish Parliament.
Initially, the government did not think that stricter measures were necessary, but the Netherlands wants all European countries to follow suit. “If all the different countries do something different, it will cause a lot of confusion and irritation,” the minister said.
Kuipers has, among other things, asked the experts in the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) for advice on the matter. But according to them, from an epidemiological point of view, there is no reason for further measures for travelers from China, as epidemiologists told NOS this week.
For example, OMT expects that a test requirement for travelers from China will not lead to fewer corona infections in the Netherlands. The same applies to the face mask requirement on the plane. Also for the early detection of any new variants from China, according to Kuipers one of the main goals of the measures, the pre-testing of travelers “has proven ineffective”, writes OMT.
“This is certainly not enough to prevent the introduction of a new variant,” says OMT member and virologist Marion Koopmans. in News hour. “This is not a measure that is going to have a major effect on what spreads out of China.”
According to Minister Kuipers, the government is now choosing these measures because other countries are doing the same. “We are committed to participating in European politics and complying with it.”
Minister Kuipers explains why he considers the new measure necessary:
Kuipers: ‘Risk for new variants, now little risk for the Dutch’
In addition to the OMT, the minister also asked the Social Impact Team (MIT) for advice, which mainly focuses on the social and psychological aspects of the corona policy. Experts at MIT expect the social impact of the new rules to be limited.
According to MIT, it could lead to “unrest and a negative image” if the Netherlands is one of the few European countries not to take further measures. The MIT members also fear that, in the absence of stricter corona regulations, travelers from China will go to other countries via the Netherlands.
OMT and Kuipers emphasize that there is currently no further danger to the Netherlands. In China, mainly omicron circulates, and most inhabitants of that country are now immune to that variant now that they have been vaccinated. “Now there is little risk, but we will also be on the lookout for new variants that appear,” says the minister by telephone. He is homesick; by the way, it is not a corona.
In recent days, more and more European countries, such as Spain, France, Italy and the UK, have announced entry restrictions for travelers from China. In recent weeks, a common approach has also been discussed in a European context, and European experts have recommended that corona tests should be mandatory before departure from China.
The Netherlands therefore did not consider this measure necessary last week and kept an eye on whether more and more coronaviruses were coming in via China by checking waste water around Schiphol. Travelers from that country were also offered a corona self-test.
Now the waste water from the planes from China must also be checked and everyone from the country must therefore have a negative corona test before departure. “The information from China is very limited, and therefore we have to monitor the risks closely,” says Minister Kuipers.
Another problem is that stricter rules cannot actually be introduced in the Netherlands because there is still no new corona law, the pandemic law. The House of Representatives voted for it in December, but the Senate has not yet.
Yesterday, Minister Kuipers asked the Senate to interrupt the holiday earlier in order to approve this law. There was a digital meeting about that this afternoon, but the senators are not in favor of that. Only on January 17, i.e. in eleven days, will they talk about the law. They want to take the time to deal with the law.
The cabinet does not want to wait for that and will now arrange the mandatory corona test for travelers from China via an emergency regulation. Minister Kuipers will give security regions a so-called instruction to arrange this in this way, says the letter to the House of Representatives.