Municipalities and mayors critical of new corona law

Municipalities and mayors strongly criticize the new, permanent corona law that the cabinet wants to introduce after the summer, Trouw reports. With the new law, the cabinet is given far-reaching powers in the event of a pandemic, such as closing public places, imposing a test or quarantine obligation and requiring a face mask.

The law, actually an amendment to the already existing Public Health Act, should replace the temporary corona law. Its extension was rejected in May.

The Society of Mayors, the Association of Dutch Municipalities and the Safety Council, say that the new law, whose draft text they saw, was put together too quickly. There would also be a lack of a โ€œfundamental discussion and substantiation of the responsibilities and powers of mayors and chairmen of the security regions,โ€ Trouw says.

Responsibility

With the new law, the responsibility for combating an epidemic will soon lie not only with ministers, but also with the security regions. But they also have to work with the so-called Disaster Act, the Safety Regions Act.

At the end of 2020, an evaluation committee has already concluded that this law needs to be completely changed and that the Netherlands is not well prepared for major crisis situations.

Liesbeth Spies, chairman of the Society of Mayors and Mayor of Alphen aan den Rijn, calls the new corona law in the CCEIT Radio 1 Journal โ€œunwise and not clearโ€. According to her, it is unclear who the responsibility lies with during a health crisis.

Now, the first responsibility in an acute phase lies with the chairman of the security region, says Spies. According to her, the new law makes the mayors responsible in the first instance, โ€œwithout giving any motivation and without having talked about it properly. We think that is unwise.โ€

According to Spies, working with two systems leads to problems. โ€œWe have seen that corona occurs not only in Alphen aan den Rijn, but also among the neighbours. What we agreed in that general law is that it is precisely in such an acute phase that the chairman of the security region is the first designated person to fight the pandemic.โ€

There is now a line through that, the responsibility lies with the mayors of all individual municipalities, says Spies. โ€œSo you get two systems side by side and that leads to ambiguity and that you no longer know where you stand.โ€

Hurry job, but not frayed

A spokesperson for Minister Kuipers of Health acknowledges that the law was a hurry, but according to him that should not be translated as โ€œknocked offโ€. โ€œThe new law came into being under time pressure. But that is the consequence of the vote out of the temporary law by the Senateโ€. In the usual explanation of the law, the minister also elaborated extensively on the criticism of the mayors, says the spokesperson.

This explanation states that the final version of the law states that the chairman of the security region is โ€œleading and competentโ€ in the acute phase of an outbreak. According to the minister, โ€œthis fulfils the request of the parties to provide more clarity about thisโ€.

The Council of State will issue a response to the new law later this month. Spies hopes that there will be further adjustments after that.