NOS Nieuws•Friday, 19:04•Adjusted Friday, 22:07
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 plane to and from China. This was announced by Minister Kuipers of Health, Welfare and Sport in a letter to the House of Representatives.
Initially, the government did not think stricter measures were necessary, but the Netherlands wants all European countries to take the same approach. “If all the different countries do something different, it will cause a lot of confusion and irritation,” said the minister.
Kuipers has, among others, asked the experts of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) for advice on the matter. However, according to them, from an epidemiological point of view, there is no reason for additional measures for travelers from China, as epidemiologists told NOS this week.
For example, the OMT expects that a test obligation for travelers from China will not lead to fewer corona infections in the Netherlands. The same applies to a face mask obligation on the plane. Also for the early detection of any new variants from China, according to Kuipers one of the most important goals of the measures, the pre-testing of travelers “has proved ineffective”, the OMT writes.
“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 is spreading out of China.”
According to Minister Kuipers, the government is now opting for these measures because other countries are doing the same. “We are committed to participating in European policy and conforming to it.”
Minister Kuipers explains why he considers the new measure necessary:
Kuipers: ‘Risk of 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 focuses mainly on the social and psychological aspects of corona policy. Experts at MIT expect the social impact of the new rules to be limited.
According to the MIT, it could lead to “unrest and a negative image” if the Netherlands is one of the few European countries not to take additional measures. The MIT members also fear that in the absence of stricter corona rules, travelers from China will go to other countries via the Netherlands.
The OMT and Kuipers emphasize that there is currently no additional danger for the Netherlands. In China, mainly omikron is circulating and most residents of that country are now immune to that variant, now that they have been vaccinated. “Now there is little risk, but we also want to be vigilant for new variants that emerge,” says the minister by telephone. He is home sick; it is not a corona by the way.
In recent days, more and more European countries, such as Spain, France, Italy and the United Kingdom, have announced entry restrictions for travelers from China. In recent weeks, a joint approach has also been discussed in a European context and European experts have advised 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 entering via China by checking sewage water around Schiphol. Travelers from that country were also offered a corona self-test.
Now the waste water from the planes from China will 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 that is why we have to monitor the risks carefully,” says Minister Kuipers.
Another problem is that stricter rules cannot actually be introduced in the Netherlands because there is no new corona law yet, 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 break off the holiday earlier in order to approve this law. There was a digital meeting about this this afternoon, but the senators are not in favor of that. Only on January 17, so 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, the letter to the House of Representatives states.