Libraries, community centers partly exempted from Covid closures
Libraries and community centers can remain open for special activities in the coming two weeks, Prime Minister Mark Rutte relented at the insistence of GroenLinks. Libraries can continue to issue books and give space for homework assistance. And people with problems can still go to community centers by appointment, NOS reports.
Stricter measures against the coronavirus implemented on Wednesday included that all publicly accessible institutions must close for two weeks, including libraries, community centers, theaters, museums, and amusement parks. This did not sit well with the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, appeared in a debate on Wednesday. Parliamentarians had difficulty with the logic behind the restrictions.
They pointed out that busy stores like Ikea and Primark are allowed to remain open. And that libraries and community centers in particular have an important function for vulnerable people. According to Rutte, the government wants to limit the number of travel movements and contact moments, in order to reduce the number of infections. According to GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver, community centers and libraries are visited by people from the immediate vicinity. "When last did you travel to the library in Barneveld," he asked Rutte, who lives in The Hague.
There was also a lot of criticism on the 30 attendees limit at funerals. At the insistence of SGP, the government agreed to give mayors the room to allow more attendees in exceptional situations.
Most parties support taking measures over the next two weeks to reduce infections more quickly, and thus relieve pressure on hospitals. But they are confused about why the government is taking measures that were not included in the "road map" they released last month. This leads to misunderstanding among citizens, who no longer know where they stand or what to expect.
Rutte said that the road map does not provide for this specific situation. "That might be a lesson. That we should also include something in the road map about what to do if you want to speed up the process."
According to the Prime Minister, the government based the new measures on experience from the first wave of Covid-19 infections. "We're doing things that worked then. Only closing the schools and the contact professions turned out to be less effective afterwards."
The government wants to see a "visible" increase in the number of people working from home. Many more people still travel to work than did in the first wave in the spring, and working from home is supposed to be the norm. Ministers Eric Wiebes of Economic Affairs and Wouter Koolmees of Social Affairs will be meeting with employers and unions on Friday, Rutte said. If this yields too little result, the cabinet has instruments ready to enforce working from home, he said. He would not say which instruments, because "that wouldn't help the conversation".
The extra measures announced in a press conference by Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge on Tuesday, are now in effect. They include the closure of publicly accessible institutions, limiting the number of people who can gather inside or outside to two people from different households, and stricter limits on funeral and wedding attendees, among other things. A full list can be found here. These measures come on top of the partial lockdown implemented in mid-October.