Rutte: Not likely lockdown will be relaxed from March 2
During a debate in Parliament about coronavirus restrictions, including the future legality of the curfew, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said there was "little room" to relax the lockdown in the Netherlands. The social restrictions in the country will expire on March 2 unless the caretaker Cabinet elects to extend them.
"If I am being very honest, I am not optimistic," Rutte said during the debate. He pointed towards the continued emergence of new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, and stagnating coronavirus infection figures.
The lockdown was announced on December 14, when the seven-day rolling average of new infections was 8,295. That figure peaked at 11,788 eight days later before starting a steady decline that leveled out at 3,425 just over a week ago.
However, the lower figures reported this week and last week were believed to be connected to a drop in testing caused by inclement weather. The percentage of people testing positive for the viral infection also rose last week. The RIVM on Thursday added another 4,618 to infection statistics, a three-week high.
"It does not look promising," Rutte said during the debate. The Cabinet was still deciding how to proceed with in-person classes for secondary school students, and a new package of economic measures.
Rutte and Hugo de Jonge, the departing health minister, are expected to update the country on coronavirus policy during a press conference on Tuesday evening.
Rutte did say that the Cabinet would wait to hear an appellate court decision on the current curfew before deciding to submit an emergency bill to Parliament on the issue. The emergency bill would grant the Cabinet the power to enforce the curfew, closing a loophole identified by a judge on Tuesday who tried to end the curfew with immediate effect.
Analysts believe the emergency bill would garner majority support in both houses of Parliament. The appellate court will hear a lawsuit against the government about the curfew on Friday, and it could render a decision within a few days.