MP's approve 9 p.m. curfew in the Netherland starting Saturday
This story was updated after the vote in Parliament.
A majority of the members of parliament in the Netherlands voted in favor of a curfew from 9 p.m. through 4:30 a.m. The curfew will begin at 9 p.m on Saturday a half-hour later than what was proposed by the outgoing prime minister, Mark Rutte.
The issue was up for debate on Thursday in Parliament as it was considered a controversial policy that should not be enacted by a caretaker Cabinet two months before the general election. The vote took place just after 6:30 p.m., over eight hours after hearings on the curfew started. Exiting coalition party D66 submitted a motion several hours into the debate to shift the start of the curfew back from 8:30 p.m., as Rutte proposed. That won the support from the outgoing prime minister's VVD party, and the other coalition parties of CDA and Christen Unie. Additionally, Labour (PvdA), the Socialist Party (SP) and 50Plus voted in favor, representing a combined total of 101 seats in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Parliament.
Currently, there are 149 people serving as members in the house. A simple majority was required to approve the curfew. The remaining members voted with far right leader Geert Wilders on his motion against enacting the curfew. Those who joined Wilders included GroenLinks, Partij voor de Dieren, SGP, Denk, and Forum voor Democratie.
Violators of the curfew will be issued a fine of 95 euros, plus any applicable administration costs, but will avoid a mark on their criminal record. Ferd Grapperhaus, the outgoing justice minister, said on Thursday that the Marechaussee, a branch of the military, will assist the police with enforcement. An individual caught using falsified documents to trick authorities into believing they are exempt from the curfew will be treated more harshly.
Earlier in the week, Rutte proposed the curfew out of concern for the escalating percentage of coronavirus cases caused by the B117 mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The government's advisors at the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) and the RIVM believe the variant was linked to ten percent of all infections last week, and will become the dominant strain of the virus by mid-February. The government argued that 100 people infected with the variant could spread the virus to 133 others, making it far more contagious than the strain which has been more common in the Netherlands.
Geert Wilders, the leader of the PVV, the largest opposition party in the Tweede Kamer, criticized the idea of a curfew. He noted that a recent interview in AD given by a microbiology professor raised the issue of whether the B117 coronavirus mutation was responsible for a spike in infections in the United Kingdom, or if it was more the result of the country's lax measures in November and early December. Wilders was angry that a curfew could be implemented now, instead of banning flights from the UK a month earlier than the Dutch government planned.
"The whole of the Netherlands now has to pay the price for that blunder," Wilders argued.
Throughout the debate, the leaders of several other political parties also posed questions asking if a later start time was possible. "What the OMT says is: if you want this to be effective, it must start somewhere in that time slot between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. If you put it on after 9 p.m., it decreases enormously in effectiveness," Rutte said.
"That's the honest answer, that it should happen in that timespan. So it could start a little earlier, and it could be a little later, but it has to be between 8 o'clock and 9 o'clock."
D66 party leader Rob Jetten had argued for a 9:30 p.m. start time, and his party's proposal was a compromise. SP leader Lilian Marijnissen said she could be won over on the issue of a curfew if it started a bit later as that "can be a tremendous help in giving people just a little more space to go outside and exercise."
Who is exempt from the curfew?
The outgoing Cabinet proposed several exemptions to the curfew, like deliverers and other workers required to be outside for their employment. They will be required to carry a written statement from a company proving they are on the job.
Guests on a live broadcast will also be exempt, as will informal caregivers (mantelzorgers) performing their tasks. Others acceptable reasons for not following the curfew order include responding to a calamity, medical emergencies involving people and pets, responding to a summons on deadline, and giving a statement at the request of authorities.
Passengers starting or completing an international trip will also be exempted. Participation in a funeral will also be allowed provided the participant can prove they are taking part in the event. Students will also be permitted to sit for an exam if it has already been scheduled. Further, one person will be allowed to walk their dog on a leash at a time.