New Covid restrictions the last step before lockdown; Restaurants could be closed tight: Report
New restrictions on society being prepared by the Dutch Cabinet in response to a dramatic rise in coronavirus infections will be the last effort to slow the spread of the virus before the country is placed into another lockdown. The new measures, expected to be announced at a press conference Tuesday night by Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge are most likely to hit restaurants, bars, cafes, public transportation and amateur sports the hardest.
The government was still debating Monday night whether to close hospitality businesses altogether, or limit their opening hours further, broadcasters RTL Nieuws and NOS reported based on interviews with anonymous sources. The food and beverage businesses could also be ordered to close at 6 p.m. daily, and remain shut during weekends, sources told the Telegraaf.
Primary schools and secondary schools are likely to remain open. However, the litany of exemptions to the 30-person maximum group size for indoor events will likely be eliminated, potentially affecting funerals, religious gatherings and some cultural events.
Public transportation was likely to again be limited only to people in vital job roles in the Netherlands or for essential travel only, and not for day trips. Opening hours of night shops could also be slashed.
All amateur team sports and contact sports for people over the age of 18 will be suspended, the two broadcast outlets reported.
A face mask ordinance was unlikely to be introduced on Tuesday due to legal complications with making such a rule mandatory, RTL Nieuws reported. When the face mask experiments in some Amsterdam and Rotterdam neighborhoods were challenged in court, one ruling noted that the tests were permissible because of their limited scope.
About 40 thousand people were diagnosed with a coronavirus infection last week, and another 6,854 tested positive according to data from the RIVM on Monday. There were 1,300 people being treated in hospitals for Covid-19 on Monday, more than 10-times the total in early September.
The cabinet met with its expert advisers at the Prime Minister's residence in The Hague on Sunday and then again on Monday, to discuss the situation around the epidemic and possible measures to curb it. The meetings lasted hours, with sources telling various Dutch media Sunday’s appointment that a complete lockdown is not yet in the cards.
A new lockdown threat emerges
On Monday, RTL Nieuws reported that if the situation does not improve after the new restrictions take effect, the country will likely re-enter what the government called an “intelligent lockdown” similar to this past Spring. People will be sternly told that to prevent this they have to limit all contact with others and remain at home as much as possible.
That includes people working from home as much as possible unless they have a job considered vital to the country’s interests, such as emergency services personnel, logistics workers, infrastructure crews, journalists and politicians, among many others.
Over the weekend, Diederik Gommers, chair of the Netherlands' intensive care association NVIC, said that he was "very much in favor of entering a lockdown as soon as possible". “And then no intelligent lockdown or something like that, but a full one. Otherwise nothing will change”
A source told broadcaster NOS that the government is trying to avoid a lockdown for as long as possible. The cabinet is trying to find that sweet spot where citizens understand and adhere to measures, and as little damage as possible is done to the economy. The source said that more restrictions to travel and social contacts can be expected.
Minister Tamara van Ark, for medical care, said, "I really wish that we would all stick to the measures. Only with our behavior can we fight the virus."