AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Dutch parliament on Tuesday debated a government proposal to scrap the “corona pass” for people not vaccinated against COVID-19, with proponents citing record-high infection rates and opponents saying the move would be discriminatory.
The pass, which grants access to indoor public venues, is now available to people who have been vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus. Under the current government proposal, the last option would be dropped.
It was unclear whether the coalition government would be able to scrape together a majority of seats in a deeply divided parliament needed to pass the proposal, given criticism that it would turn some people into “second-class citizens”.
The debate could run until midnight before a vote.
The Netherlands reimposed some lockdown measures last weekend in an effort slow a resurgence of coronavirus contagion, but infections have continued to spread.
The National Institute for Health (RIVM) on Tuesday reported a record of more than 110,000 cases in the week ended Nov. 16, an increase of 44% from the week before, with the strongest rise among children aged 4-12.
Hospitals have been forced to scale back regular care to make space for a surge in COVID-19 patients. In the past week, hospitalizations were up 12% and the number of intensive care patients increased by 3%, the RIVM said.
About 70% of those in intensive care last month were unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated, RIVM figures show.
Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday announced further measures to be imposed the following day for three weeks. They include the early closure of supermarkets, bars and restaurants, social distancing, restrictions on sporting events and a recommendation that people work from home.
Most contentious, however, is the plan to limit eligibility for the corona pass, which requires parliamentary approval.
Nearly 85% of the adult Dutch population has been fully vaccinated. Since the start of the pandemic, the Netherlands has recorded 2.27 million COVID-19 cases and 18,695 related deaths.
(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch and Toby Sterling, editing by Mark Heinrich)