Last updated 4 weeks ago by Michael Darmanin
Despite ongoing partial lockdown, coronavirus infections are rising in the Netherlands. The country set yet another record on Friday with over 10,000 positive cases. According to the latest data by health institute RIVM, the number was around 25 percent higher than last Friday’s total. The data show that seven out of ten days since the partial lockdown is enforced, reported a record number of positive cases.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte during his weekly press conference on Friday said that stricter measures are on the table considering the spiraling coronavirus infections.
Despite this grave situation, some of the rules, such as wearing masks in public places, or quarantining for sickness or after travel, are not strictly adhered to. The reason being, the government’s advisory is not yet mandatory. But, can soon be.
Why wearing face masks is not mandatory?
The Dutch Constitution guarantees rights to privacy, which includes what people wear, the right to gather at a place. Since it is a fundamental right, it cannot be restricted without an Act by the parliament. The government is working since May on a temporary Covid-19 law to give a legal basis to the coronavirus measures. The law was to take effect from July 1 but went several amendments due to a large amount of criticism. Some of the disapproval points stated that the law will give a lot of power to the government at the cost of the citizens’ privacy, and the lower house of the parliament, the Tweede Kamer, would be too far to intervene. Some even called it a law to “restrict freedom”.
The government finally reached a consensus after making several amendments to count the majority in the Tweede Kamer. For instance, the fine for violating social distancing, and other coronavirus rules, is reduced to 95 euros from 390 euros. The maximum prison sentence for breaking the rule on group gatherings, and not maintaining 1.5 meters distance, is reduced to two weeks from one month. There will be no ban on visiting nursing homes. Plus, the Tweede Kamer will have more power, and the government will be able to able to enact measures without parliamentary approval only during emergencies. The other measures part of the law is expected to be announced this week.
Though making masks compulsory was not accepted under the law, health minister Hugo de Jonge earlier said that he will make it mandatory once the legalization is passed. He added that the process includes a clause that allows ministers to alter or introduce rules that are about personal protection. Once the Senate passes the law, the Cabinet can bring new measures such as mandatory masks.
The law was passed by a large majority in the House of Representatives, Tweede Kamer, on October 14. It will face the vote in the Senate, Eerste Kamer, on October 27. If passed, it would be enacted later, ensuring stricter rules are followed.