Covid pass in higher education now less likely

With new research showing that Covid passes do little to nothing to curb transmission, the introduction of such a pass in higher education currently seems unlikely.

In the fight against coronavirus, the previous government had plans to amend certain legislation. For instance, it wanted to be able to introduce a Covid pass in higher education without having to involve participation councils.

This week, members of the House of Representatives will submit written questions about that bill. While the previous government treated it as an urgent matter, there no longer seems to be any great urgency.

Researchers from Delft, Utrecht and Rotterdam reported this week that the effects of Covid passes are very limited. They will not be able to stop the advance of a virus as infectious as the Omicron variant.


With the Covid pass, entry can be restricted on the basis of 3G (vaccinated, recovered from Covid or tested), 2G (vaccinated or recovered) or 1G (tested). The researchers’ conclusion, however, is that none of these restrictions will be able to stop the virus in its tracks.

Only the latter alternative (testing everyone) might help a little, says the research report. But the situation could change moving forward, as 2G and 3G could be effective against other variants.

The introduction of a Covid pass for higher education is a sensitive issue because it restricts the accessibility of degree programmes. The pass would also be difficult to enforce for higher education institutions.

Outbreak Management Team

In the past, the experts of the Outbreak Management Team were also sceptical about Covid passes for higher education. Such passes wouldn’t be effective at stopping the spread of the virus, they stated. Moreover, they believed Covid passes to be less effective for young people than for older people.

At the beginning of December, then health minister Hugo de Jonge said that the government would introduce Covid passes in higher education only as a last resort. It remains to be seen what view his successor, Ernst Kuipers, will take on the matter.

The legislation required to introduce Covid passes in higher education is already in place, but – at the insistence of the House of Representatives – it can only be implemented if the institutions’ participation councils are involved in the process. The reasoning behind this was that there would be little point in a Covid pass if there is no support base for it.

Too long

The previous government was, on reflection, afraid that this procedure would take too long. It wanted to be able to act quickly if the need arose. The hope at the time was that a Covid pass might help avoid a lockdown.

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