Challenge to Dutch vaccine certificate system rejected in court

Argument that system to gain entry to indoor public spaces is discriminatory unsuccessful

A Dutch court has rejected a bid to scrap the government’s new coronavirus pass system as discriminatory, ruling that since the end of social distancing it plays “a legitimate role” in limiting the spread of coronavirus.

The QR code on mobile phones was introduced on September 25th at the same time as the 1.5m social distancing rule was abolished in the Netherlands. It's obligatory for entering restaurants, bars, theatres and other indoor public spaces, but not workplaces.

The so-called test-to-enter system allows anyone over 12 to prove they’re fully vaccinated, have recovered from the virus in the past six months or have tested negative in the previous 24 hours.

The case against the state was taken in The Hague by lawyer Bart Maes, who argued that the government should revoke the pass because it was not only discriminatory but illegal – on the grounds that it treated unvaccinated citizens differently for no apparent reason.


Mr Maes, who said before the hearing that he expected similar pass systems to struck down by courts in other European countries, claimed it was clear since social distancing ended that there was no longer any need for measures against coronavirus.

Spread threat

He also maintained that fully vaccinated people were as likely to spread the virus as those who were unvaccinated, a claim that has been widely challenged by experts.

He asked the preliminary relief judge to suspend the QR system nationwide with immediate effect pending a full hearing on the merits of the case.

Rejecting that application, the judge said the government had every right to base its coronavirus policy on the expert opinion of the outbreak management team that unvaccinated people carried a greater risk of transmitting the disease.

On that basis, he said, the government had explained that because ending the 1.5m distancing rule posed a risk that the virus could flare up again, the test-to-enter pass played an important and legitimate role in reducing that risk.

It did not breach the law on discrimination because “it has not been proved that this is a case of a difference in how people are treated that is without objective or reasonable legal justification”.

New coronavirus cases in the Netherlands rose 2.2 per cent in the week to Tuesday, with the rise concentrated in the over-55s and a decline in the under-20s, according to the public health institute. The R number, which measures the rate at which the virus is reproducing, stands at 0.96.

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey is a journalist and broadcaster based in The Hague, where he covers Dutch news and politics plus the work of organisations such as the International Criminal Court