Dutch PM criticized for confusion around Covid lockdown
Prime Minister Mark Rutte faced criticism in parliament on Wednesday about the way he and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge announced that the partial lockdown against the coronavirus would be extended until end November. According to parties from both opposition and coalition parties, they mentioned it "in passing", resulting in confusion about whether or not the measures are extended, AD reports.
D66 parliamentarian Steven van Weyenberg, who was standing in for D66 leader Rob Jetten as he is in quarantine with the coronavirus, was very critical of the way of delivery. "If it is true that the measures will be extended, it was presented in a very un-compassionate way," he said. "It was communicated in passing."
MPs pointed out that State Secretary Mona Keijzer of Economic Affairs later said that the measures were not extended. GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver asked for clarity. "This was an enormous announcement, made in passing. Then you don't have the communication in order." SP leader Lilian Marijnissen and SGP leader Kees van der Staaij also joined the criticism.
Rutte explained that the government has not yet decided whether or not the partial lockdown will be extended after mid-November. "We have not decided that. But if we start to realize that there is insight into what is needed after this, then you must also share that with the Netherlands. That's what we did," the Prime Minister said.
The number of coronavirus infections must be drastically reduced to get the virus under control, Rutte said. That means reducing new infections to no more than 1,200 per day. The cabinet expects that extending the partial lockdown will be necessary to achieve this.
"I know it is a difficult announcement. It means that the package [of measures] may be in place for three or four weeks longer," Rutte said. The government will make that decision next Tuesday, based on the coronavirus figures in the coming days.
If these figures are disappointing, "draconian, long-term measures" will be needed, Rutte said. That could mean an even tighter lockdown than in March, which would have "enormous social consequences", he said. He also warned that such a lockdown will have to be implemented for longer than a few weeks.