No chance of further lockdown relaxations at this time: Dutch PM
The coronavirus lockdown cannot be relaxed any further for the time being, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a parliamentary debate on the pandemic on Wednesday. "There is no room now," he said in the last debate before the parliamentary election next week, NOS reports. "It is not responsible. We first have to look at how things will turn out now."
Both coalition and opposition parties pushed for measures to be relaxed during the debate. GroenLinks wants higher education to reopen for some physical lessons, because students are increasingly struggling with mental health problems. The CDA wants terraces to reopen, raising concerns that people will go out in "uncontrolled groups" as the weather gets nicer. "I'm not saying just throw them open, but isn't it better to think about regulated opening?" CDA parliamentarian Pieter Heerma said.
ChristenUnie leader Gert-Jan Segers asked for more relaxation for the churches. And multiple parties - PVV, D66, PvdA, ChristenUnie, PvdD, DENK - had critical questions about extending the curfew. Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security recently suggested that the curfew is not that bad. "Did you also talk to lonely people?" PvdA leader Lilianne Ploumen wanted to know.
SP leader Lilian Marijnissen warned that public support for the coronavirus measures is crumbling. "Who can still follow that you are allowed to exercise outside in fours, but are not allowed to visit your parents?" she said. The PVV wants people to be allowed more freedom to do things outside and for stores to all reopen fully. "It is incomprehensible that the Netherlands is completely locked up," party leader Geert Wilders said.
Rutte said that he understood where these questions were coming from, but stressed that the Outbreak Management Team does not find further relaxation possible at this time. "I understand the questions. They are good comments and I want to look at them. But it can't be done now." He said the cabinet is already taking risks by, for example, allowing up to 50 customers in large stores at once.
The parliamentary election will be held next week. The next debate on the coronavirus and the measures in place to curb its spread is only scheduled for March 23.