Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Minister of Health Hugo De Jonge have taken to the podiums once again to update the Netherlands on the latest coronavirus measures. Here’s what they had to say.
Following a leak on Sunday, the country has anticipated that a three-week extension of the current coronavirus measures will be implemented. Rutte has formally confirmed this — but this comes as no surprise.
Last week, it was claimed that the “convincing effects” of lockdown could not be seen in the weekly numbers. For this reason, many of us were wondering what tonight’s press conference would bring.
The topic that concerned the prime minister and the health minister the most, however, was the new British variant of coronavirus and how it may affect the Netherlands.
Primary schools and daycare — will they reopen?
The more pressing issue of primary schools and daycare has been a topic of increasing concern over the past few days. Sources from The Hague had previously claimed that the government were considering reopening primary schools and daycare on January 25.
The prime minister has not shed much light on this issue but he has confirmed that if this is possible, it will indeed be considered.
Secondary education — keep 1.5 metres from other students
Primary and secondary education will remain open for vulnerable students, examination classes (in the case of secondary students) and pupils who follow practical training. However, they have been asked to maintain a 1.5-metre distance from their fellow pupils, as well as a five-foot distance from teaching staff.
For now, all other students are expected to return by February 9.
UK variant in the Netherlands
There has been considerable worry over the spread of the UK variant throughout the Netherlands. Last week, a school in Bergschenhoek suffered a widespread outbreak of the British strain.
This has led many to worry about the prospect of allowing children and infants to return to primary education and daycare. However, so far there has been no formal evidence to prove that children are particularly susceptible to the variant.
The prime minister has said that this is the main motivation behind the cabinet’s consideration of a curfew.
Will there be a curfew in the Netherlands?
Earlier today, RTL reported that the Dutch government is also considering the option of a nationwide curfew. Rutte addressed this, saying that the government will continue to consider this option.
There are some merits to a curfew, which need to be taken seriously,” the prime minister said, “because it’s a drastic measure.” However, the cabinet will await the advice of the OMT before making a decision on the matter.
When exactly the cabinet will receive this advice is uncertain. When asked, Rutte responded that “it might be as early as this weekend that we get the advice, but we will need to consider all facets and that will take some time.”
Mayors and government factions are putting up strong resistance to the cabinet’s plan. “You cannot ask this from people,” said one person in last night’s Security Meeting.
When asked about the government’s motivation behind the curfew, Rutte responds that the British variant is the reason behind this consideration — it is not simply because the government has run out of ideas.
Do not travel by plane until March
Rutte has also advised residents of the Netherlands not to travel by plane until March. That is, unless the travel is deemed absolutely necessary.
Currently, passengers flying into the Netherlands from high-risk areas (currently the entire world is high risk) must show proof of a negative coronavirus test that is no older than 72 hours.
Numbers are lower but not low enough
Health Minister Hugo De Jonge has described the current coronavirus numbers in the Netherlands as better this week than last week, but they’re still bad, and even worse than the first wave.”
He also added that the arrival of the British variant in the Netherlands adds to this worry. “The coming of the British variant is very troubling and we must fight this variant with the current measures.”
More testing needed
De Jonge also pointed out that the Netherlands is currently capable of carrying out 100,000 tests per day, yet only 50,000 tests are carried out. This is because people with symptoms are not getting tested, he claims.
He believes that more mass testing needs to be undertaken across the Netherlands. “More testing will lead to a better understanding about the virus, which, in turn, will lead to more containment,” he says.
More worryingly, De Jonge made sure to point out that more than a quarter of people who test positive for coronavirus are still going outdoors.
No end in sight — lockdown extended
The decision to extend lockdown has been met with opposition and a call for clarity by mayors. The mayors of the 25 security regions have raised concern over how and when the lockdown will end. “At the moment we support the lockdown, but it is about afterwards,” said Mayor Hubert Bruls, chairman of the Security Council. “People yearn for a different future.”
The prime minister has said the cabinet had “no other choice, especially considering the menacing threat of the British mutation of the virus.”
How do you feel about the extension of coronavirus measures in the Netherlands? Is a curfew necessary? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!
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