Cabinet expands Covid pass system even wider than expected; Face mask rules explained

Coronavirus passes will be required to enter a wider variety of locations in the Netherlands starting on November 6. Additionally, the use of face masks will be required in higher education facilities and all publicly accessible buildings which do not require a coronavirus pass.

Those who do not adhere to face mask rules may be fined 95 euros, according to a statement from the Cabinet. No fine was specified for patrons evading the access pass rules.

The new policy shift was discussed by Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge during a press conference on Tuesday. It was adopted based on advice received from the Outbreak Management Team. “Some people are against all measures. A cautious group wants many measures. Most of us are somewhere in between,” Rutte said. “It is understandable that we struggle with that in our country.”

Weekly Covid-19 hospitalizations have tripled in one month, with 1,152 patients admitted during the past seven days, according to the LCPS. There were 1,312 people with the disease in treatment on Tuesday, a figure which doubled compared to two weeks earlier. The average number of daily coronavirus infections has increased from 1,672 a month ago to 7,740 on Tuesday, according to raw data from the RIVM.

The situation will be re-evaluated on November 12. At that time, the coronavirus access pass system could be expanded even further. “That means a further distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated. Unvaccinated people will then have to show that they have been tested in more places,” Rutte stated.

He said he hoped that the hospitality industry will not need to be restricted with tighter operating hours, or closed altogether.

Access passes needed to enter many more venues

The access passes are most often displayed as QR codes in the CoronaCheck app. Temporary codes are distributed to people who tested negative for coronavirus within 24 hours of entering a location where the code is required. Fixed codes are given to people who have either recently recovered from an infection, or who are considered to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

The QR codes will be required before spending time on a cafe’s outdoor terrace, all events including those where seating is assigned, professional and amateur sports competitions and practices where people older than 18 take part, and also all organized arts and culture rehearsals for people 18 years of age or older.

“We know that the vaccine still works well against transmission. Not 100 percent, but that is also not possible,” De Jonge said. The system is most safe for people who are fully vaccinated because their likelihood of experiencing serious symptoms of Covid-19 is far lower. “For whom is the risk greatest? For people who have not been vaccinated.”

The current requirements for access passes will remain in place. That includes entering the indoor space of any bar, cafe, restaurant, club, or casino. They will also be necessary for museums, cinemas, music venues, theaters, conferences, trade fairs, and events without a fixed seat.

Cabinet ministers are also investigating if employers can ask employees for the QR codes at the workplace if customers and visitors are also required to use the system, such as in the hospitality sector. Other sectors are also being considered. They could also become necessary to enter non-essential retail locations, amusement parks, and zoos.

Those who need to get tested in order to receive their access pass will still be able to do so for free, the Cabinet said.

Face mask use expanded substantially starting this week

Face masks will be required in all indoor public spaces. This includes all supermarkets, retailers, libraries, and amusement parks. It also includes all public transportation facilities, such as stations, shops, platforms, and stops, and also everywhere in an airport.

The masks will again be required for people at vocational colleges, applied sciences universities, and research universities. The requirement is that people where the masks when moving around at these locations, but the masks may be removed when people sit down.

Additionally, face masks will also be required at businesses requiring close contact between the service provider and a customer. Both will need a face mask under the new rules. Sex work has been excluded from this requirement

The masks are not required to be worn where a coronavirus access pass is necessary for entry.

De Jonge reiterated that by far the majority of people living in the Netherlands is vaccinated against Covid-19. “We have deliberately chosen measures which are protective, but which limit as little as possible for the largest group: the people who have been vaccinated,” he said.

Work from home, avoid rush hour, and get tested

The government is again stressing that people have to work from home more frequently to avoid physical personal contacts. “Work at home for at least half of work hours,” is the new advice from the Cabinet, with efect from Wednesday. Those headed to the workplace should try to avoid commuting during rush hour, as should people traveling in their spare time.

“Your own behavior remains crucial. The most important thing is: stay at home with symptoms and get yourself tested. Even if you have been vaccinated,” Rutte said.

“People with symptoms must stay at home,” as long as symptoms persist, and even after a coronavirus test, De Jonge said. “With a broken leg you should not drive, even if you have a driver’s license.”

The other basic coronavirus measures should also be followed. These include keeping a safe distance from others, avoiding handshakes, washing hands frequently, sneezing into the elbow, and sufficiently ventilating indoor spaces.