Rutte calls urgent meeting over damning coronavirus figures; Press conference possible
Cabinet members will meet on Sunday for an emergency consultation on the escalating coronavirus figures in the Netherlands. News of the meeting at the Catshuis, the Prime Minister’s official residence, leaked out unexpectedly at about 11 a.m., roughly one hour after public health agency RIVM begins tabulating the number of new infections determined over the previous 24-hour period.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge were likely to again address the nation about the situation during a prime time press conference on Tuesday. No specific reports about a tightening of coronavirus restrictions has emerged, however during the two ministers’ previous news conference they clearly stated that if the data worsened the Cabinet could introduce new measures to cut down on the number of new infections. Rutte reiterated this during a debate with Parliament earlier in the week, cautioning that there might be additional measures for the Christmas period.
The Catshuis meeting reverses what Deputy Prime Minister Kajsa Ollongren stated on Friday, when she indicated there was no planned Catshuis meeting this weekend, saying that members of the Cabinet would next convene in a conversation about the state of the pandemic after the weekend. Ollongren said, “the next moment that we will be together in a decision-making sense will be next Tuesday. Then there will be another cabinet meeting on Friday. Then there is still the possibility to get back together the following Tuesday. So, what needs to be done will be done. And if it has to be done quickly, we’ll do it quickly, and if it has to be done in recess, we will do it in recess.”
The meeting will include those ministers who are most closely involved in tackling the corona crisis. Experts such as the director of the Public Health Agency RIVM, Jaap van Dissel, will also be present. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.
The rolling average of number of new coronavirus infections has risen daily since December 2. On Friday, the RIVM reported nearly 8,900 new cases, about 3,000 more than the previous week.
In reaction to the new numbers, Ollongren described the situation as “worrisome.” There have been debates about additional measures to tackle the virus or even a complete lockdown. “What we do, of course, is mainly look at why it isn’t possible to bring the numbers down. So what can we improve within the current partial lockdown to ensure that people come into contact with each other less,” she said.
In Germany, calls are growing for tougher measurements as coronavirus cases have spiked. This might also affect Dutch decision making. “We heard that the Germans are talking about this, which is also relevant for the Netherlands because we border on Germany. We may also face border problems if the rules there are different from ours. So we should certainly take that into account and look at it,” said Ollongren, who serves in the Cabinet as the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.
She also reiterated Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s words, saying that “we cannot rule out the possibility that we will have to take additional measures. But we have not yet made that decision.”
In an interview published Saturday morning, Diederik Gommers, director of the Dutch Intensive Care Association (NVIC), has criticized the government for its slow reactions. “On Sunday, in the Catshuis, there will be a consultation again, and then it must take till Tuesday until a decision is made, which will take effect later,” he said.