Stricter restrictions as Netherlands prepares for 5,000 daily coronavirus infections
The Netherlands can expect five thousand new infections of the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus every day by next week, and because of that the government will implement stricter new restrictions on society which take effect on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge introduced their updated plan on Monday to combat the second wave of coronavirus infections, and a five-fold increase in hospitalizations in less than a month.
"We expect the first effect between ten days and two weeks," the Prime Minister said. "If it does not change after three weeks, more severe measures are very realistic."
The new restrictions include the possibility of employers being held responsible if a cluster of coronavirus infections affects employees. An impacted business can be shut down for up to two weeks, the Prime Minister said. Likewise, shopping should only be done if necessary, and should not be taken up as an outing.
"The most important news is that stricter national measures will be introduced from 6 pm tomorrow," Rutte said on Monday night. "We have seen this situation arise in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. We are in danger of playing catch up with the virus. That is why we are continuing with national measures to again stop the virus."
A face mask obligation was not included as part of the package of restrictions, however businesses may make decisions themselves as to what would and would not be acceptable on their premises, particularly in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague where it will be recommended to wear a mask in stores. "Jaap van Dissel did not say that face masks do not work, but did say that it should not replace the 1.5 meters," Rutte said, referring to the head of public health agency RIVM. "We therefore do not think it should be mandatory, except where the distance cannot be safeguarded, especially with fleeting contacts such as in the train."
Workers must be encouraged to work from home unless that is really an untenable situation, Rutte said. Aside from businesses being held responsible for infections among employees, the restrictions include the following:
- Restaurants and bars must close their doors to new customers at 9 p.m., and must be completely closed with no customers inside by 10 p.m.
- Up to 30 people will be allowed at indoor facilities, including children of all ages, but excluding staff.
- No more than 40 people allowed for outdoors activities. This can be further limited regionally, Rutte said.
- Sporting events will not be allowed to be played in front of an audience, regardless if they are professional or amateur competitors involved. Canteens at sports clubs must also remain closed.
- Visits inside the home, including in gardens and on balconies, will be limited to three guests. This limit excludes children aged 12 and under.
- Outside of the home, people will not be allowed in groups of more than four. The limit excludes children aged 12 and under. "This means that a reservation at a cinema or restaurant can be made for one household or a maximum of four people, excluding children," the Cabinet said in a statement.
- Supermarkets are to have two specified shopping hours per day for the elderly and others in vulnerable health.
- Retailers must maintain a 1.5-meter distance among everyone inside a store, and can tell people to leave for disobeying rules.
- Those in professions where close contact takes place, such as beauticians, therapists, and likely also sex workers, will be required to keep a registry of their customers' contact information. This information must be passed on to the municipal health service if an infection occurs so that a source and contact investigation can be carried out.
- Hospitality businesses will be required to register all guests.
- Museums, monuments, libraries and other indoor spaces with a flow of visitors will be allowed to remain open but with limited access based on an amount of people per reservation time. This will be subject to change based on regions, the government said.
- A standard number of visitors per square meter will be communicated to outdoor locations with a visitor flow, like zoos and markets.
"We ourselves have the responsibility to comply with the rules," Rutte said. "Whether you are a customer or guest, you are responsible for complying with the rules on site. Mayors have the option to close places if that does not happen," he said.
Schools are exempt from the rules, as are daycare facilities, funerals, and religious gatherings. Organizations will be allowed a maximum of 100 people per space for meetings which are crucial to the continuation of daily activities. Protests and demonstrations will also be exempt, as will some government meetings, and meetings of certain international organizations which are based in the Netherlands.
The number of coronavirus infections is increasing alarmingly in the Netherlands. Last week 17,857 people tested positive for Covid-19, including 2,999 on Sunday. The Netherlands set a new record for SARS-CoV-2 infections for six of the seven days last week. Over 2,900 more positive test results were disclosed by the RIVM on Monday. The country is currently one of the biggest coronavirus hotspots in Western Europe, according to a study by RTL Nieuws journalist Jasper Bunskoek.
On Sunday, hospitals in the Netherlands were treating 617 people for the coronavirus. That patient total was five times higher than on September 2, and has risen every day since that date. Last week's rate of increase was 8.5 percent. If that continues, there will be 1,100 Covid-19 patients in Dutch hospitals by this coming Sunday, and 2 thousand within two weeks.
"We will decide for ourselves whether or not we get out from under the virus."