Rutte confirms five-week lockdown in the Netherlands; Schools shut from Wednesday
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte informed the public that due to an increase in coronavirus infections and Covid-19 hospitalizations, the Netherlands will enter a lockdown starting at midnight for five weeks. "Less than a week ago I said that we were a crossroads. The coronavirus is spreading even faster," he said.
Households will only be permitted to accept two guests over the age of 12 per day, while guests aged 12 and under remain exempted from the requirement. One additional guest from the age of 13 up will be allowed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
"As a Cabinet, we realize how intense this is that we made, certainly just before Christmas. 2020 is a year of mourning, loss and sorrow for many people," he stated. Rutte pointed to the average number of daily coronavirus infections, which on Monday topped 8,200.
Because of this, "Only the shops for basic necessities of life will remain open: bakers, supermarkets, butchers, dry cleaners. Furniture stores, garden centers and electronics shops, among others, will have to close their doors," he said. "This is a hard message for entrepreneurs, but given the busy shopping streets it has to be this way. There will be a substantial support package to help entrepreneurs. From tomorrow until December 27 it is possible to apply for a subsidy."
Hotels will be allowed to remain open, but with no restaurants or room service. Clients of DIY shops and libraries will be able to collect items at those locations, but movie theaters, live theatrical venues, casinos and zoos will all be shuttered.
Starting on Wednesday, all schools in the Netherlands will be closed. "Until January 18, distance education will become the norm. That is a radical, but inevitable decision. Exceptions apply to students in their final year and students who need extra help. This also applies to children with parents with vital professions."
Rutte also reiterated his "urgent advice" that people stay in their homes for as long as they are able to remain there. "For unnecessary trips abroad: don't do that. This applies until mid-March. The risks and uncertainties are simply too great." He also said people in neighboring countries should not visit the Netherlands.
During the 19-minute speech protestors against the lockdown could be heard whistling and jeering outside of Rutte's office. Earlier in the day, it was revealed that while most in the Netherlands support stricter restrictions, and 49 percent support a full lockdown, a vocal minority wants an end to all coronavirus rules.
The Netherlands has been in the second wave of coronavirus infections for nearly 12 weeks. A partial lockdown implemented in mid-October, supplemented with some stricter measures in November, seemed to have an effect and daily infection numbers fell for a brief period. But once the extra measures were lifted, infections started to climb again. The government had hoped that there would be around 3,500 Covid-19 infections per day by December 10. Instead, the RIVM reported nearly 10 thousand new infections on Sunday, and 8,500 on Monday.
Perhaps demonstrating the seriousness of the situation, the government invited the leaders of the parliamentary parties to discuss the extra measures before they were announced on Monday. The party leaders were somber when they left the meeting. "It seems that we have to take harsher measures because we find it difficult to stick to the lighter measures," VVD leader Klaas Dijkhoff said.
Reports that a hard lockdown would be introduced illicit responses ranging from shock to understanding in the various sectors. InRetail called shop closures "disastrous" for non-food stores. While the VO-Raad said that secondary schools understand the need for closure and are preparing for distance learning in the first weeks of January. Hairdressers and masseuses had their hands full with ringing phones, as customers scrambled to prevent going through the festive season with lockdown haircuts and stressed out shoulders.