Dutch curfew could shift forward to 10 o’clock; “Serious option” says Justice Min.
The caretaker Cabinet was expected to announce a slight relaxation of the mandatory nightly curfew in place as part of the coronavirus lockdown measures. Instead of starting at 9 p.m., the curfew could move up one hour to begin at 10 p.m., broadcaster NOS reported on Monday. A decision will be announced by Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge during a press conference Tuesday at 7 p.m.
After meeting with the mayors who represent the country’s 25 security regions on Monday evening, Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus said it was a “serious option.” The mayors who were in favor of the shift noted that not only are daylight hours increasing, but also daylight saving time is about to start.
“The combination of more daylight and good weather makes people go outside. How well can such a measure be enforced and to what extent does it contribute to combating the virus?” asked Security Council Chair and Nijmegen Mayor Hubert Bruls after the meeting, according to the ANP newswire.
On top of that the Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan, will begin in a few weeks. People who follow the religion traditionally break the fast every night after sunset. This could pose a problem as those people celebrating at the home of a family member or friend could easily be in violation of curfew. Starting April 28, sunset will not take place before 9 p.m.
“There are a million Muslims in the Netherlands and also millions of Catholics and Protestants. The coronavirus measures are just as much a downer for the upcoming Easter party,” Grapperhaus was quoted by ANP as saying. He conceded that he would consult with Muslim organizations to get their input.
In light of these arguments, Grapperhaus said the mayors presented an "understandable, well-reasoned suggestion." He also expressed concern, saying “The peak of the third wave is really coming in the second half of April. Then it is all hands on deck to prevent the situation from derailing.”
The number of daily coronavirus infections has gone up on average by 41 percent over the past two weeks. The current number of Covid-19 patients in Dutch hospitals was close to 2,100 on Monday, 15 percent higher since Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s last press conference on coronavirus measures on March 8.
"We are shocked by the rising figures and the pressure on the healthcare system, but we are just as shocked by the pressure on society and the economy," Bruls told ANP. “You cannot say now to extend the strict measures for another two months. Especially now that the vaccinations are on the rise.”
Vaccinations against Covid-19 have actually fallen over the past week by 25 percent. The Netherlands was one of several European Union countries which briefly stopped using the AstraZeneca vaccine due to blood clot fears. The pharmaceutical company said it would also fail to deliver over 60 percent of vaccine doses it committed to send the European Economic Area from April through the end of June.
”You can't wait for the last Dutch person to be vaccinated,” Bruls said.