So all in all, it was quite a big week regarding Covid-matters in the Netherlands, with major decisions about the curfew, education and elections. It’s quite a lot of text, so my apologies for that in advance! As matters, and in particular the curfew court cases, are quite complex, this takes up some more text than you’d perhaps expect.
I’ll try to give you an overview of this week, topic by topic.
On Tuesday, there was a court case of the non-Covid believers of Viruswaarheid. They strongly believe that Covid is a relatively harmless virus, that we’ve passed the pandemic status and that it’s now only a minor disease, that healthcare is not overwhelmed, there’s sufficient ICU-capacity, and that counting the number of infections makes no sense whatsoever. While recognising that more vulnerable groups do exist, the scale of current measures is way, way too far-reaching, rather restrictive and bringing the Netherlands to the brink of an authoritarian state.
The case on Tuesday was about the curfew specifically. Viruswaarheid argued that the curfew is a far-reaching infringement of the right to freedom of movement and infringement on one’s personal life. The judge argued this was indeed the case, and that for such a far-reaching measure, a decent legal framework is required. This framework was not present when the curfew was first introduced, as it was then based on a high-priority legal framework. According to the ruling, there was no direct urgency for the curfew when it was introduced, as there had been parliamentary debate about it prior to the decision. All in all, this made the curfew an illegal measure, because of the underlying legal framework. This meant the curfew would end Tuesday, effective immediately.
Later on Tuesday, there was an appeal by the Dutch state specifically aimed at ending the curfew effective immediately. This was purely about whether or not to enforce the curfew, not an appeal regarding the content of the case or judgement. In a nail biter of a court case, in which the judge was challenged because of alleged bias, the legal procedure took the entire afternoon. The judge could continue and at 20.30h, it was decided the curfew could stay in place for now, despite the wonky legal framework.
Subsequently, today there was an appeal case by the Dutch state about the content of the initial judgement of Tuesday. In this, the state claimed the curfew is a necessary measure, and Viruswaarheid claims there is no proof of the effectiveness of the curfew as Covid-measure, and they question the urgency of the current phase of the pandemic – according to them, we’re long past the urgent phase, as described above.
The judge will take a week to time for her deliberations, so we will not know the outcome of this appeal until Friday next week.
Meanwhile, a new legal framework is passing through parliament to give the curfew a decent legal underpinning. This legal framework follows the regular process of any law passing in the Netherlands: being discussed in the Tweede Kamer (parliament), subsequently in the Eerste Kamer (Senate). If it passes both chambers, it will be signed into effect by the Dutch King. Update 19-02 22.00h: This new legal framework has passed through both chambers.
So, what does this mean for our ability to be outside in the evening?
Currently, nothing changes. At least until February 26th, a curfew applies. Depending on the outcome of the court appeal then, it could be that the curfew is indeed judged to be illegal. If this illegality is because of the legal underpinning framework solely, it will most likely have no effect – as we will have a new legal framework then. If the illegality is because of the far-reaching effects the curfew has on people, which is an entirely different potential ground. If that would be the case, a new legal framework most likely wouldn’t solve that – so we will see what happens then. I’m no judge, so I don’t know what way it’s going to go. We will have to see and wait.
In a mid-day press conference on Wednesday, an 8,5 billion euro support package was announced to prevent Covid-rooted lasting damage in the Dutch education system and amongst students. This means a financial input for schools (~€180.000 for primary schools, ~€1.300.000 for secondary education) to invest in effective prevention and recovery programmes, multi-level early high-school years (so-called brugklassen).
Aside from that, the academic year 2021-2022 will see tuition fees halved for Dutch educational institutions. At this point, it is not clear whether this does apply to international students. I am also not sure if this applies if you pay a higher tuition fee because of your specific faculty rules (e.g. at a University College), but even then you will see at least a discount of €1100 on your tuition fee. There are no plans for additional compensation for students graduating this academic year, aside from people graduating with a delay from last year.
Students who need an extra year to graduate will have their student-OV extended for an extra year.
Lastly, on the Dutch Elections,
Perhaps you’re aware Dutch elections are coming up. As this is not a Covid-matter, I will not discuss the specificities of this election here on dutchcovidnews.nl, but some Covid-related sidenotes may come through, like this one.
For the elections on March 17th, it was decided that the elderly (70+) can vote by mail. In the court case, it was argued this is discriminatory against younger voters, so there was a call for wider in-mail ballots, and not solely for the elderly. In this case, the state did win, meaning in-mail votes won’t be extended.
If you have any questions, you know where/how to reach me. As a last thing, I want to gratefully thank those of you who have made a donation and in particular for the nice messages accompanying them.
Take care of yourself, take care of your friends and loved ones, and please behave wisely in regard to Covid rules and guidelines!