Outgoing Dutch Cabinet says it will seek curfew extension through March 2
This story was updated after the press briefing on Monday night.
The caretaker Cabinet will attempt to extend the mandatory curfew put in place in the Netherlands to bring coronavirus infections under control through March 2, outgoing Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus announced at a press briefing on Monday. The curfew hours of 9 p.m. through 4:30 a.m. were not likely to be changed.
The issue will be brought forward and discussed in Parliament during a debate with outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte and departing Cabinet members. The curfew, the country’s first since World War II, was implemented on January 23 after the caretaker Cabinet won the support of a majority of the sitting members in the Tweede Kamer, the lower House of Parliament. It required approval in Parliament as the issue was considered too controversial for a caretaker government to implement on its own.
Without an extension, the curfew will expire at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Should it be extended, it will end on the same day as other lockdown measures, like the closure of non-essential shops, bars and restaurants to anyone other than their takeaway clients. All coronavirus restrictions were likely to be re-evaluated on February 23.
Grapperhaus said that the curfew's direct impact on coronavirus infections was not yet known. However, the Outbreak Management Team has informed the Cabinet that it has data showing fewer moments where people come into contact with one another, and the police have also reported a decrease in traffic on the roads.
As of Monday, 23,534 people in total have been fined for breaking curfew laws since they were first introduced. Some 5,765 people received a fine for breaking curfew laws on January 23 and 24, the first two days the rule was in effect. During the following week, from January 25 to January 31, the police said 10,810 were caught violating curfew without a valid excuse.
Last week police reported that curfew violations decreased to 6,959. Violators risk receiving a 95 euro fine if they are caught on the streets without a valid reason, an exemption form, or a statement from their employer.
Average daily coronavirus infection rates have dropped by over 29 percent after the implementation of the curfew, though figures had already been decreasing steadily for the month leading up to the curfew. On January 23 the seven-day average for coronavirus infections was 5,361. As of February 8, the average stood at 3,804.
During his press conference on Friday, Rutte said that he was still most concerned about the emergence of coronavirus mutations which are more contagious than the coronavirus strain which was prevalent in the Netherlands. As of the last week in January, most new infections in the country were believed to be caused by the B117 coronavirus variant which first appeared in the United Kingdom.
The Cabinet was also expected to announce its policy about outdoor ice skating competitions, which some want to organize should this week’s low temperatures allow for the formation of natural ice.