Health council: Businesses can refuse entry to unvaccinated people
The Health Council of the Netherlands has said that businesses, shops, schools and catering establishments can refuse entry to people who are not vaccinated against coronavirus - but they should only do so if it is absolutely necessary.
Dutch businesses could request a vaccination certificate
In advice published on Thursday, the Health Council stated that, in principle, businesses could request proof of vaccination upon entry according to current legislation. However, they said the Dutch government had a responsibility to ensure this law was not misused, and that proof is only requested if it “serves a legitimate purpose” and if there is no other way to achieve a specific goal - a goal such as the protection of public health, for example.
The Council has spoken out against mandatory vaccination in the Netherlands, but has said the government could consider an indirect vaccination rule, whereby people who aren’t vaccinated are denied entry to certain events or buildings. They say it is up to the government to determine whether the restrictions on individual freedom outweighs the collective health benefits that could be achieved.
In order for group immunity to be achieved, at least 60 percent of the population of the Netherlands would have to be vaccinated. Requesting a so-called vaccination certificate would not only urge people to be immunised but would also serve to limit the spread of the virus at specific locations such as schools or restaurants. Therefore, depending on the circumstances, requesting a certificate may be justifiable, the Health Council says, but they do doubt the effectiveness and fairness of such a strategy.
The guidelines and advice outlined by the Dutch Health Council
The Health Council outlines the following rules in its latest advisory report:
- Schools and educational institutions: have a duty of care, must limit risk of contamination as much as possible, a vaccination certificate can only be requested if it reduced the number of infections even more and only after other preventative measures have been taken.
- Healthcare: patients should under no circumstances be denied care, even if unvaccinated.
- Work: employers have a duty of care, vaccination certificate can only be requested if there’s no other way of reducing the risk of infection (i.e. transferring employee to different department, asking them to work from home).
- Events and social gatherings: count as non-essential amenities, in theory, events and catering establishments could also request vaccination certificate but must demonstrate that it contributes to the protection of visitors.
- International travel: this is a “complex international issue,” could be possible if travelling to and from countries outside the Schengen zone.
The Health Council sees that requesting a vaccination certificate could lead to discrimination against those who cannot or do not want to be vaccinated, and see that there are logistical issues - what if businesses request a certificate before many groups have even had the opportunity to be immunised? Is it fair to exclude all those groups? They also say the rule must be reviewed on a case by case basis, depending on the situation.
Will institutions in the Netherlands implement this?
Supermarkets have already said they won’t request proof of vaccination unless the government instructs them to do so. Meanwhile, the largest union representing hospitality businesses in the Netherlands, Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN), wants to examine the new advice carefully before making a decision: “Any options for dealing responsibly with COVID-19 may be welcome to play a role in ensuring the safety of employees and guests so that the catering industry can quickly open up again responsibly," a spokesperson said.
The travel industry is, on the whole, supportive of a vaccination certificate, but Frank Oostdam, chairman of the General Dutch Association of Travel Agencies (ANVR), fears it will lead to discrimination and exclusion. Instead, the ANVR would like to see the current coronavirus testing rules remain in place for the foreseeable future so people can still travel, and that proof of vaccination will serve as an additional check.