Netherlands plans to end ‘corona pass’ for unvaccinated people amid political reluctance

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Dutch government‘s plan to end the ‘corona pass’ for those unvaccinated against COVID-19 met strong opposition in parliament on Tuesday, including within the ruling coalition.

The pass, which provides access to indoor public places, is now available to people who have been vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19, or tested negative for the virus. According to a proposal presented on Friday by interim Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the latter option would be abandoned.

But during an evening debate, even one of the partners in Rutte’s quadripartite coalition government expressed concern that this could lead to social division.

Christian Democrats lawmaker Joba van den Berg said her party, which would be needed to push a new law on the proposal through the lower house, wanted to weigh less confrontational alternatives. “Polarization will not get us out of this crisis,” she said.

It was not clear whether the coalition government would be able to muster a majority of seats, given criticism that it would turn some people into “second-class citizens” and violate civil liberties.

The government was considering a bill, which would not be voted on Tuesday.

The Netherlands reimposed some lockdown measures last weekend for an initial three weeks in a bid to slow a resurgence of coronavirus contagion, but infections continued to spread.

The National Institute of Health (RIVM) on Tuesday reported a record high of more than 110,000 cases in the week ending November 16, a 44% increase from the previous week, with the largest increase in children aged 4 to 12 years.

Hospitals have been forced to cut back on regular care to make room for an increase in the number of COVID-19 patients. About 70% of people in intensive care last month were either unvaccinated or were only partially vaccinated, according to figures from the RIVM.

Measures in place since Saturday include early shutdowns of supermarkets, bars and restaurants, social distancing, restrictions on sporting events and a recommendation that people work from home.

Almost 85% of the Dutch adult population has been fully vaccinated. Since the start of the pandemic, the Netherlands has recorded 2.27 million cases of COVID-19 and 18,695 related deaths.

(Report by Anthony Deutsch and Toby Sterling, edited by Mark Heinrich and Jonathan Oatis)

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