THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Protesters gathered to march against the introduction of a “corona pass” in the Netherlands on Saturday as proof of COVID-19 vaccination became compulsory to get into bars, restaurants, theatres and other venues.
The new requirement to show the pass, or a recent negative coronavirus test, coincided with the lifting of almost all social distancing measures in the country, where 72% of the population has received at least one vaccine dose.
While face masks will still be mandatory on public transport, students and teachers will no longer have to wear masks in schools, and a rule for 1.5-metre (nearly 5 feet) distancing in public was also scrapped.
Several hundred protesters gathered in The Hague, the seat of the Dutch government, to march through the city centre.
Most Dutch people support the introduction of the admission pass, but it has drawn criticism from the hospitality sector.
More than 40% of bar and restaurant owners do not plan to ask clients for the vaccination certificate, the country’s Horeca Nederland hospitality industry association said, citing a survey of its members.
It said many businesses saw the requirement as a “political tool” aimed at boosting vaccination take-up.
“It is not only impossible to enforce, but will financially damage a sector that is just starting to recover,” the association added in a statement.
The decision to introduce the pass also drew criticism from within the government of caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
“If we end up in a society where we have to be afraid of each other unless we can show proof, then you really have to scratch your head and ask yourself: Is this the direction we want to go?” Deputy Economic Affairs Minister Mona Keijzer said in a newspaper interview.
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