Utrecht experts share their view on the long-term consequences of COVID-19 on society

Winkel gesloten vanwege COVID-19 © iStockphoto.com/Kanawa_Studio

In addition to fighting the virus, policy makers and scientists are working on the broader impact of the coronavirus and the measures on society. A number of experts from Utrecht University have contributed to a bundle of short papers on, among other things, the economy, work, democracy, the rule of law and sustainability. The collection is an initiative of the Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) in the Netherlands.

New recovery tasks have been added, but even before the corona crisis, the Netherlands was already faced with a number of major issues, for example around digitization, healthcare education, the labor market and sustainability. The pandemic has sometimes deepened these and other issues, sometimes made them more visible or even supplanted them. In the collection COVID-19: Expert visions on the consequences for society and policy, scientists from various knowledge institutes share their findings. A large number of them are affiliated with Utrecht University and there on the strategic research themes of Institutions for Open Societies and Pathways to Sustainability.

For example, Maarten Prak, professor of Economic and Social History, writes the chapter: consequences of crises: A historical perspective.

Joop Schippers, affiliated with the Future of Work hub of Institutions for open societies, looks ahead with a chapter on the future of work and the labor market.

Jacqueline Cramer, is responsible for the chapter “The impact of COVID-19 on sustainability”.

Maarten Hajer, scientific director of Pathways to Sustainability at Utrecht University, will present a chapter on spatial planning: Puzzling spatial planning.

And Thomas Schillemans writes the chapter: Government implementation capacity: long lines and some perspectives.

The rule of law

There has been quite a bit of discussion in society about the legal aspects of the corona measures. Two researchers from Utrecht University contribute to the section on “law” in this volume.

Barbara Oomen writes the chapter on human rights and the state of the democratic constitutional state. She says, among other things: “Often the democratic constitutional state has been compared to a house. Part of the pandemic response did not take place within that house, but in a temporary tent camp outside. That is not only incorrect, but also a pity, because that house has been built over the years to provide space for the most complicated social issues and to offer a home for everyone.”

Jerfi Uzman draws lessons from the crisis in the chapter: Beyond the pandemic: our democratic rule of law after COVID-19. He states, among other things: “The government had the choice to convert its corona policy into legislation, or to invoke the constitutional emergency right. This emergency law is outdated and not geared to the nature of the current crisis. In the end, the choice was made for legislation, but it turned out to be complex. The Temporary Act on COVID-19 Measures did not see the light until well after the first wave. So it turned out that the constitutional system, despite a multitude of emergency law, is not geared to the kind of crises we are faced with today.”

“The judiciary also found itself in a difficult position. Interest groups, from Viruswaarheid to entrepreneurs, soon tried to get measures off the table through the courts. This presented the judge with uncomfortable questions: should she act as a patron of the rule of law, or should constitutional objections give way to the interest of public health? In general, most judges chose the path of restraint. Only in the startling verdict on the curfew did the court in The Hague draw a line in the sand. It shouldn't get too crazy with that constitutional negligence."

All contributions and the entire bundle can be read and downloaded on the WRR website. Please not that this publication is written in Dutch:

Bundel COVID-19: Expertvisies op de gevolgen voor samenleving en beleid