Some of the measures that the Dutch government has taken in its fight against the spread of COVID-19, include the cancellation of gatherings of more than 100 people throughout the Netherlands, which includes the closure of public places such as museums, concert venues, theatres, sports clubs and the cancellation of sports matches and other events. This measure should only affect facilities if their operations require the gathering of more than 100 people. Additionally, people throughout the Netherlands are encouraged to work from home or stagger their working times if possible, and employers are advised to allow their employees to work from home as much as possible (See Here) and (See Here). These measures, along with many other measures with implications for the public, were to apply until April 6, 2020 (inclusive), but have now been extended to June 1, 2020.
From Thursday 19 March 2020, the access conditions for people who want to travel to the Netherlands will become stricter. This prevents all unnecessary travel of persons from third countries to Europe, including all EU Member States, all members of Schengen and the UK, with the aim of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Persons who do not fall under certain exceptional position will not enter the Netherlands (See Here). These travel restrictions should not create any impacts for facilities.
On March 20, the Decree of the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management was published, which temporarily relaxes existing rules for driving and rest times for drivers guaranteeing supplies to supermarkets, among others (See: https://zoek.officielebekendmakingen.nl/stcrt-2020-17859.html). The change only applies to professions that have been identified as crucial by the government, which include the transport of the following products: agricultural products and live animals; other food products (foodstuffs) and animal feed; petroleum and petroleum products; medicinal and pharmaceutical products (including medical devices) and perfumery and cleaning products and waste and trash. The temporary changes to the existing rules on driving and rest times include an increase in the daily driving time limit from 9 to 11 hours, an increase in the weekly driving time limit from 56 hours to 60 hours and an increase in the fortnightly total driving time limit from 90 to 96 hours. These changes to the driving and rest times are considered to be necessary during this time due to the outbreak of COVID-19, in order to ensure that the supply and transport of essential goods and products are not compromised. These changes to rules on driving and rest times are due to expire on April 7 2020, but it is likely they will be extended.
On March 23, the Dutch Prime Minister announced the adoption of additional, stricter measures in the Netherlands’ fight against COVID-19. As part of the measures, the government has reinforced the rule that individuals must only leave the house to go to work if they cannot work at home, to buy groceries, or to take care of others. Individuals can go out to get fresh air, but cannot do so in groups. It has been reiterated that a significant distance must be maintained from other people (at least 1.5 metres). Additionally, all gatherings are prohibited until 1 June, even gatherings of less than 100 people, which is a tightening of the existing ban. Businesses should keep these measures in mind with regards to the amount of distance that should be maintained between workers, if they are to come into the workplace, as well as the amount of people that can be present in the workplace (See Here).
On March 24, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment announced that COVID-19 was detected in wastewater, and reinforced that employees working in wastewater treatment plants should follow proper hygiene protocols to be protected against viral infections like COVID-19. Operators of wastewater treatment plants should ensure that their employees are following the correct hygiene protocol, and operators should ensure that the required protective measures are continued to be implemented. Previous research has shown that the protective measures that are already the standard for people working at wastewater treatment plants provide sufficient protection against pathogens. It has been said that these measures are also effective against the virus that causes COVID-19 (See: https://www.rivm.nl/en/news/novel-coronavirus-found-in-wastewater).
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has published some useful guidance information for employees to work from home in an ergonomically safe manner (See Here).
Furthermore, the European Center for Disease Prevention has published a guidance on Social Distancing measures that all individuals are encouraged to implement in their daily lives. Some of those recommendations may apply to businesses in respect of, for example, restriction of mass gatherings, and staying at home measures (See Here).
The Dutch Government has implemented a phased approach to the reopening of the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, the first phase starting as of May 11. This phased approached includes a methodic relaxation of measures imposed during the start of the pandemic as of May 11. For certain businesses that are allowed to re-open during the first phase, persons with contact-based jobs are required to make every effort to keep a 1.5m distance when doing their work and must observe all the general hygiene measures. Furthermore, if it is at all possible, people are ecouraged to continue working from home. If this is not an option, employers should try to stagger the working hours of staff (See Here).
Employers should continue to check with relevant authorities for the latest information:
-Government of the Netherlands (https://www.government.nl/topics/coronavirus-covid-19)
-Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (https://www.government.nl/ministries/ministry-of-health-welfare-and-sport/news)
-National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (https://www.rivm.nl/en/novel-coronavirus-covid-19)
-Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/ministeries/ministerie-van-sociale-zaken-en-werkgelegenheid/nieuws)
-Working Conditions Portal of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (https://www.arboportaal.nl/onderwerpen/bedrijfsarts/vraag-en-antwoord/coronavirus)
-European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/novel-coronavirus-china)
-European Commission Coronavirus response (https://ec.europa.eu/info/live-work-travel-eu/health/coronavirus-response_en)