Rutte: Stopping curfew will have an immediate negative impact on coronavirus fight
Mark Rutte, the outgoing prime minister, asked the people of the Netherlands to continue to adhere to the curfew hours even if the country's court system determines that the mandatory curfew contravenes Dutch law. "Suspending the measure would immediately have a grave impact on the fight against the coronavirus," Rutte said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, a court in The Hague issued a preliminary ruling that the mandatory curfew must be scrapped with immediate effect as part of a lawsuit filed by Viruswaarheid, an organization which argues against coronavirus restrictions. "A setback," Rutte said of the ruling, as the departing Cabinet did not want to lift the curfew with more contagious coronavirus variants having become dominant in the Netherlands.
"If the curfew was not based on the correct legal basis at this point, that does not mean that it is not necessary," the prime minister stated. He said that curfew in effect daily from 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. is meant to cut down on the number of opportunities a person contagious with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus can pass it on to other people. He said the curfew is "a goal to keep the virus under control as much as possible."
The Preliminary Relief Judge said that the curfew did not meet the requirements for an unexpected emergency under the Extraordinary Powers of Civil Authority Act because before the curfew was ordered it was regularly discussed as a possibility. The law used to implement the curfew requires there to be an emergency like when a dyke breaks, the court said. That was not the case with the curfew, as is apparent from the fact that the curfew was discussed before it was implemented.
"We cannot legally enforce washing hands, and also not the guests' rule," Rutte said, referencing the limitation on daily visitors allowed in a home. "But we also have to adhere to that."
The government appealed against the temporary order and asked the court to keep the curfew in place until the court of appeals ruled on it. Caretaker Justice and Security Minister Ferd Grapperhaus, who attended the press conference with Rutte, said, "We are not appealing because it makes for an interesting legal discussion, but because we really think the measure is necessary."
There will be a hearing on that request at 4 p.m. on Tuesday. The court case will be heard in full at a later date.
The curfew was first implemented on January 23, as part of a package of measures aimed at curbing the spread of the more contagious B117 strain of the coronavirus. Its implementation sparked multiple nights of rioting throughout the Netherlands. It was set to expire on February 10, but the government extended it - with parliament's approval - to March 3.