Does the corona pass actually work? That question hung over the House of Representatives for months. Until the TU Delft and the UMC Utrecht came up with a report about the corona admission ticket – that was the moment when MPs definitively wrote off the corona pass.
“Omikron is withdrawing from 2G,” said Frank Wassenberg (PvdD). The effect is “particularly marginal”, said Fleur Agema (PVV). And Attje Kuiken (PvdA), whose party was needed for a majority, concluded that 2G is “ineffective”. A majority of the House of Representatives then called on Minister Ernst Kuipers (Public Health, D66) to withdraw the law that should make 2G possible.
The corona pass, especially with 2G [te weten: alleen gevaccineerden of mensen die herstelden van corona krijgen toegang], thus resembles dying after death. 3G, which also gives tested people access, is faltering: a manifesto of the Undistributed Open action group – which wants to put an end to the corona pass – by, among others, former politician for the CDA Mona Keijzer, has now been signed more than 850,000 times.
It will be tense next week: the cabinet wants to abolish practically all corona measures as of 25 February, such as the distance rule, the home working advice and the earlier closing times for the catering industry. Now only people with a valid corona pass are allowed to enter the catering industry and theaters – whether that will remain so is still unclear. Kuipers defended the corona pass passionately last week. It is either rules in the catering industry or a “check at the door”, he said in the talk show Beau†
The effect of the corona pass is indeed small, say the researchers from TU Delft and UMC Utrecht themselves. However, research leader Niek Mouter (TU Delft) and modellers Bas Kolen (TU Delft) and Martin Bootsma (UMC Utrecht) emphasize that small effect can also be important.
Minister Kuipers received strong criticism when he said that with 3G the reproduction number, which shows how quickly the virus is spreading, can be reduced by 15 percent. Was he indeed wrong?
Kolen: “It is true that it can have an effect of up to 15 percent. But in our study, we calculated with 3G in all locations, including work, except at home or school. That is much more ambitious than how it is applied by the government at the time – and still is.”
Bootsma: “So that 15 percent is probably far too much. But suppose it is 5 percent. That seems like a small amount, but it takes an average of only 3.5 days before a new generation of infections is present. Then you have that 5 percent reduction every 3.5 days and that adds up. That can save more than 30 percent in a month. That won’t stop the epidemic, but instead of 100,000 people being contagious at the same time, it will become 60,000. And that might just make the difference between trains that do or do not run and hospitals that do or do not have enough staff.”
The petition from Undistributed Open states: the effect on healthcare and the spread of the virus is now very limited.
Mouter: “The manifesto says nothing about vulnerable people. If you let all measures go in one go, you might get a huge peak and it will be a difficult time for vulnerable people if they don’t dare to go to places where the corona pass was previously mandatory.”
Kolen: “The question is: do you dare to let go of everything at once or do you want to do it in a phased manner to offer people some protection? The advantages of the corona ticket are much less clear to Omikron than last year. The risk is shifting from overload of care to disruption in society. There is a breakdown because many people are ill, and services threaten to come to a standstill. Whether you want to prevent that is pre-eminently a political consideration.”
2G seems to have died an early death politically. Could it still be of use?
Bootsma: “2G works if there is a big difference in susceptibility between the group you exclude (unvaccinated) and not excluded (vaccinated). That difference is very limited by Omikron. But if a new variant is introduced, and you can boost with a vaccine that significantly increases immunity, that difference can still be increased and 2G is effective. Then you have to think about whether that is proportional.”
Also read this article: Shorter validity and crumbling support for the corona pass
Do you call on politicians to keep the corona pass in the toolbox, as the cabinet would like?
Kolen: “From a crisis management point of view, it is rather naive to think: if I rule it out now, that measure will never be on the table again. There may of course be a situation in which it will play again, or it will be imported abroad. We do not say: take that 2G measure. But do: think about it in advance, to avoid being mugged.”
Bootsma: „The question is whether you want to exclude a measure because it does not work now. Spreading salt doesn’t make much sense now, and it all has negative effects on the environment. Then you can say: let’s never sprinkle salt again, but I would say: wait until it freezes.”
Mouter: “If we can look to the future with more peace of mind in a few weeks, that is the time to consider: what is a reasonable measure in which scenario?”
In the short term, the cabinet wants to introduce 1G – everyone must test it – at events such as carnival. Good idea?
Bootsma: “It will not have a major effect on society, as the number of locations to which it applies is too small. But it is more than symbolic politics, it does have an effect on the transmission you expect in those locations. You take out the most contagious people, which in any case leads to less transmission.
Mouter: “The individual risk decreases, the chance that you will become infected during carnival is lower. People can go there more safely, that can of course be an argument.”
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