Mayors won't allow shops to reopen if lockdown is extended; Covid press conference tonight
The 25 mayors of the Security Council believe that following the in-effect coronavirus rules will should always remain the example by which they lead, and that it is everyone's responsibility to comply with those rules. This means that, in principle, shopkeepers and hospitality entrepreneurs won't be allowed to open their businesses on Saturday if the Cabinet does not relax these rules in the press conference on Friday.
The mayors of the Council agreed to this on Thursday evening, according to Hubert Bruls, the council chair and the mayor of Nijmegen. Over the past few days, mayors in municipalities across the Netherlands announced they will turn a blind eye to shops and catering establishments who open their doors on Saturday as a form of peaceful demonstration against the strict lockdown. The entrepreneurs must then act safely and responsibly.
The Security Council believes that everyone should adhere to the rules. "Although, of course, we cannot assess the local situation in Aalten or Leeuwarden, for example," said Bruls. The Council recommended giving entrepreneurs who open their business against the rules a warning. If that doesn't help, they can then be fined. In extreme cases, the responsible mayor can force the company to close for a period of time, or indefinitely. According to Bruls, the Cabinet and Public Prosecution Service endorse this course of action for the relevant municipality.
The Security Council is seriously concerned about the well-being of society. The mayors asked Justice Minister Dilan Yesilgoz for a glimpse of any possible lockdown relaxations expected from the Cabinet in the short-term. "We hope that the Cabinet will explain what is possible in the next four weeks and when, if it is not yet possible on Friday. Because relaxation must really, really come."
The expectation is that the new Cabinet will announce that the hard lockdown will be relaxed somewhat during a press conference on Friday evening. This will be the first joint event by Prime Minister Mark Rutte and new Health Minister Ernst Kuipers.
As usual, the main points of the Cabinet's plans leaked out early, this time on Thursday. The Cabinet is expected to relax the coronavirus rules by allowing higher education students to return to class, and the limited reopening of non-essential retail stores, close-contact service professions, and fitness centers from Saturday. Rules about sports participation may also be modified.
The government will make its final decision about scaling down the coronavirus measures during the first regular Council of Ministers meeting on Friday. Rutte and Kuipers will hold their press conference at 7 p.m.
This press conference will have a different appearance than in the past. Kuipers will use a video monitor to explain certain points with graphs and visual aids. The sign language interpreters will no longer be in the same room as the ministers, but they will instead be in another room, viewable during broadcasts in a picture-in-picture format.
Reporting by ANP