Lockdown: Full text of Prime Minister Rutte's national address in English
The NL Times also published a summary of Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s address to the nation in which he announced that the country would enter into a lockdown of a minimum five-week duration to stop the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, and a full list of all lockdown restrictions announced by the Cabinet on Monday.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte addressed the nation on Monday night regarding the increasing number of coronavirus infections, and his Cabinet's new slate of policies meant to reduce the problem and create more breathing room in hospitals. He largely held back from admonishing the public for spending more time away from home, including at workplaces, instead expressing understanding for those who felt as if the walls were closing in on them.
Below find the full text of his speech, translated from Dutch by NL Times.
When I first gave a televised speech about coronavirus almost nine months ago, I had really hoped it would be the last. And it seemed that way for a long time. But unfortunately I have to address you in this way again today with another profound message.
Less than a week ago, I said in the press conference that we were at a crossroads. I said at the time that stricter measures were conceivable if the infection rates continued to rise. And unfortunately that is exactly what we have seen happening at breakneck speed ever since.
The coronavirus is spreading even faster than we calculated last week. And that is why the Netherlands will go into lockdown for a period of at least five weeks. The Netherlands will close down.
That means closing all places where people gather in groups, with a few exceptions that are necessary to keep society running or to protect vulnerable people. Everything is aimed at keeping the number of personal contacts to a minimum. Because without contact the virus cannot spread.
We all remember the images from this spring. Empty highways, empty trains and buses, empty offices and school classes, empty shopping streets. We have to return to that.
I want to explain to you today why that is necessary. And I also want to take you step-by-step through the various measures. But first a few things I need to get off my chest.
Because as a Cabinet we realize very well how intense and far-reaching this decision we are taking today is. Especially just before Christmas.
2020 has become a year of grief, loss and sadness for many people. Because they lost a loved one to coronavirus. Because they themselves have been ill and are still not the same. Because they are losing their job or see their company fail, for example in the hospitality industry.
We see young people who have to put their plans for the future on hold. We see elderly people who are afraid of getting sick. And we see stress and loneliness as big and growing problems across generations.
We all feel and understand this: right after this year the need for togetherness around the Christmas tree, for normal and real human contact, is greater than ever. And that is why I would like to ask you all around Christmastime, within all limitations, to keep an eye on people who are having a hard time, for people who are sad, for people who are alone. Paying attention to each other helps us get through this miserable period.
It is clear to me that we will get through it. Because of the vaccine that is coming, but even more because of the resilience we have shown together.
Of course, we are all human beings who are imperfect. And we all find it difficult to obey the rules 100 percent, always and everywhere. That is what is discussed a great deal in conversations between people, online and in the media - and I get that. But what I also see is that the vast majority of the Dutch realize very well that we must protect ourselves and each other by changing our behavior.
I see an incredible amount of people trying to make the most of it. People who keep their courage and who help other people not to lose theirs. We are experiencing something unprecedented with 17 million people, something greater than we have ever experienced in peacetime, and yet we will get through it.
It is good to keep seeing that and it also helps to cope with the next phase. The point is, we as humans have to be alert throughout the day, dozens or hundreds of times, to keep the virus at bay. The virus only needs to be lucky once to spread and we need to be lucky on every contact. That is an unequal battle. And it is exactly what we are looking at now. Because the virus spreads - and far too often.
Every day, an average of 60 people die from coronavirus. Every day we record an average of about 9,000 new infections. That is [equal to a full crowd at Feyenoord football stadium De Kuip] in under six days. Figures are also increasing in hospitals and nursing homes. More people will end up in hospital during the second wave than in the first wave.
I know numbers are abstract. And they certainly don't tell the whole story. But the reality is that more than a million regular hospital treatments have now been postponed. It will only happen to you if you are waiting for treatment. The reality is that people in hospitals and nursing homes have been at the end of their ropes for three months. They are really on their last legs. And then the flu season has yet to begin.
And the reality is also that we are not dealing with a harmless flu, which some - say the protesters out here - still think, but with a virus that can hit anyone hard. And not only the very oldest among us.
About 30,000 people with coronavirus have now been hospitalized, 6,000 of were in intensive care. Of those 6,000, the group under 50 was two and a half times larger than the group over 80. The hard truth is that almost all of these 6,000 people would have died had they not been treated in intensive care. And that almost without exception they still have to deal with shortness of breath, extreme fatigue and other complaints long after their discharge from the hospital.
That's what coronavirus does. That is why it is so important that healthcare remains accessible. That there is a bed for you if you need it. And that is also why I would like to say once again to all workers in hospitals, nursing homes, home care and at the GGDs, "Thank you." Much is being asked of all of us today, but the most of you. I have, we all have, great admiration for you.
So now, in short, the background of the lockdown. We have no choice: the number of contacts between people must be reduced. Everything must now be focused on that. The next question is: what will the lockdown look like?
All in all, it concerns a large package of measures and urgent advice that will take effect tomorrow and which will in any case apply until Tuesday, 19 January. During the week before, on Tuesday, January 12, Hugo de Jonge and I will discuss during a press conference what it will look like after the 19th.
For practical reasons, this Wednesday is the starting date and Monday, January 18 is the provisional end date.
I have divided the measures into seven points for clarity and I will go through the list with you in its entirety.
I will start with the most drastic decisions.
First, from Wednesday December 16 until at least Monday January 18, distance education will become the norm - from primary education to universities. Just like this spring. This is of course a radical decision, for teachers, for pupils and students, and for parents. But it is also an inevitable decision. Just like this spring, we do make a few exceptions, including for students in the final year, for practical training and for the personal guidance of students who need special attention.
Childcare also remains open only to children who are vulnerable and to children of parents with crucial professions. So for example for people in health care, with the police or in public transport. Again: just like this spring.
Secondly, all unnecessary shops will close from tomorrow morning. Only the shops for basic necessities will remain open. These are the supermarkets, the bakeries, the butchers and other food stores, including the weekly markets. They also include the drugstores, dry cleaners, opticians and home care stores. But otherwise, all clothing boutiques, hardware stores, department stores, furniture stores, garden centers, electronics stores, household goods stores and whatever else you can think of must close their doors.
Especially for hardware stores it will be possible to pick up pre-ordered items, because sometimes things breaks in the house. And of course stores can continue to deliver.
This is an incredibly harsh message for many entrepreneurs, but especially given the occasional extreme busyness in the shopping streets in the big cities, we have to undertake this decision now. Of course we will do whatever it takes to support entrepreneurs and maintain jobs. We have a substantial support package for that, which was expanded last week and which is elastic: the more revenue loss, the more support.
From tomorrow until December 27, it is also possible to apply for a subsidy again with which you can continue to pay your staff - the so-called NOW scheme. We will also continue to look during the coming period to see what can and is necessary to ensure that as few companies as possible fail.
Thirdly, all publicly accessible locations will be closed from tomorrow. Indoors and outdoors. This really includes a lot. For example, zoos and amusement parks, museums and Christmas markets, cinemas and theaters, casinos and saunas.
There are a few peculiarities in this category. Hotels can stay open, but from tomorrow without a restaurant function or room service. Too many people went to a hotel just to eat out, with all the risks that entailed.
Libraries are closing, but you can pick up books. Banks, town halls and locations where funerals take place will remain open. And in the coming weeks, community centers will only be able to organize activities for vulnerable groups.
For the contact professions we are making a division between the medical and non-medical professions. Dentists, physiotherapists and midwives are allowed to keep the practice open. The hairdressers, nail salons and masseurs unfortunately have to close their doors again.
Fourthly, the urgent advice is not to receive more than two guests from the age of 13 at home per day. We are making an exception for Christmas.
On December 24, 25 and 26, three remains the maximum, with the exception of children under 13. So on those three days there is a bit more, but to be fair: Christmas unfortunately remains austere. And if you have health complaints, you must of course stay at home. Nobody wants to infect family or friends. If you do go to visit, you need to wash your hands and keep a distance of 1.5 meters. Those ground rules remain crucial.
A maximum group size of two also applies outdoors from tomorrow, unless you go out with [people from] your own household. So walking together is possible, but not with more than one friend. And of course also at a distance of 1.5 meters.
From tomorrow the gyms, swimming pools and sports halls will close, so all indoor sports locations. Outdoor sports locations can remain open and young people up to the age of 18 can also continue to train outside as a team. But from the age of 18 there is a maximum of two people at a distance of 1.5 meters, no team training, no competitions, no group lessons and no competition. And running or cycling on your own is always possible and recommended.
The urgent advice is and remains: stay at home as much as possible and do not make unnecessary trips. And of course, if you have rented a house somewhere in the Netherlands around the holidays, you can go there. But once you get there, the same rules apply as at home. So no unnecessary trips.
For unnecessary trips abroad, the urgent advice also applies: do not do this, and do not book a trip for the period until mid-March. That was previously mid-January. The risks and uncertainties are simply too great.
And of course we will also ask our neighboring countries to discourage traveling to the Netherlands. From tomorrow, all citizens from non-EU countries must be able to submit a negative test if they come to our country from outside Europe.
Seventh and last, the very urgent advice:
Work at home unless there is no other option. We see from all of the data we have that this advice is being followed not nearly as well as in the spring. And I get it: at some point, the walls of your home office will close in on you. We miss contact with colleagues. And yet we all have to reduce the number of travel movements and contact moments that have to do with work. Too much is at stake.
Too many infections are taking place at work. That is why I am making that appeal again, also to employers. Make sure your people can work from home, give them that opportunity and make agreements about it.
And that means that public transport is only there for necessary journeys. Again: just like this spring.
And I say openly: there is a long discussion about each of these measures, about each location, each profession, each target group. "Because with us it can be quite safe with some adjustments, right?" "We haven't had any infections, have we?" Or, "What is the contribution of this particular group to the spread of the virus?"
These are all understandable questions and arguments.
And if the numbers had fallen instead of increased in recent weeks, we would also have asked ourselves these kinds of questions to see where maybe something more could be done. But that's not the situation we are in. We do not have that luxury. It is now, "The fewer contacts, the better." We have to do everything now. We have to bite into this very sour apple before it gets better.
And yes, it will get better. There will come a point when we leave coronavirus behind. That our life will return to normal, with very little or no restrictions. That is not immediately. Nor is it in a week or a month. But with the vaccine, 2021 will be a year of hope and a light at the end of the tunnel.
I imagine many of you will have practical questions after this speech. "Which professions are crucial?" "Can my shop remain open?" "Which contact professions fall into which category?" For all those questions I refer you to [the government website] rijksoverheid.nl. There you will find as many answers as possible, or you can receive further assistance.
What matters in the coming weeks is even more resilience. It sounds so simple, limit your contacts as much as possible, but how difficult it is. Continue to help each other. Be patient with each other and with the people who, day in and day out, do their utmost best for all of us in healthcare and other areas.
And, despite all the restrictions, make it a beautiful and warm Christmas. I wish you all that.
We are getting through this, with each other, and for each other.