Rutte: New restrictions in Amsterdam, Rotterdam & The Hague possible next week
Addressing the rising coronavirus infections in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague is a top priority for the Cabinet of the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said separately on Friday. Rutte also confirmed that eight more security regions were placed at level two for coronavirus risks, in addition to six regions which remained at the higher-risk levels.
Rutte said there was a very real chance for tighter restrictions in the three largest cities of the country due to the higher levels of coronavirus infections there. "We are seeing it increasing to such an extent that it is causing great concern; then we must intervene now," Rutte said.
"We will never get the virus under control in the Netherlands, if the Dutch do not readily comply with the rules," he said, adding, "The last thing I'm going to do is beg the Netherlands to do what I ask."
He would not indicate what those restrictions could be, saying only that the Cabinet will get new advice from the Outbreak Management Team on Monday about the issue. Earlier in the day, the Parool reported that measures under consideration in Amsterdam include the shutdown of wedding halls, party rental venues, and movie theaters. Limits to the number of people allowed to attend an event or gather in group were also reportedly on the table.
"We are looking at what extra is needed there," Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said of the three cities. On Friday, the number of new infections was higher in all three than anywhere else, with Amsterdam home to 360 of nearly 2,800 of the country's residents who most recently tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 viral infection.
By Thursday, the number of patients being treated for Covid-19 in Dutch hospitals had quadrupled in three weeks. De Jonge said he was troubled by the advancing spread of the virus.
Rutte also announced that just 11 of the 25 Security Regions would remain at Level 1, or "Vigilant", the lowest of three coronavirus risk designations. Eight more were added to Level 2, or "Worrying."
Those eight include Brabant-Noord, Brabant-Zuidoost, Flevoland, Gelderland-Zuid, and Groningen. Also on the list were Gooi- en Vechtstreek, Zaanstreek-Waterland, and Zuid-Holland-Zuid, which means that the entirety of the Randstad region is contained in the higher risk classification.
Like the six other regions of the Randstad added to the list a week ago, new local restrictions will be imposed on the eight new level 2 areas. Those include all bars and cafes locking their doors to new customers at midnight, with the facilities empty by 1 a.m. Group sizes will also be capped at 50 instead of 100.
There was speculation earlier in the day that the Amsterdam-Amstelland region would be elevated to Level 3, or "Serious," but that was not announced.