Coronavirus press conference: 20.30 to 4.30 curfew introduced
On Wednesday, January 20, acting Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that a national curfew would come into effect in the Netherlands, although an exact start date is not yet known. He also announced a number of other new measures, including a travel ban for 17 countries.
Last-minute coronavirus press conference
On Tuesday afternoon, the Dutch government announced a last-minute coronavirus press conference would be held on Wednesday afternoon. Following this announcement, many predicted the press conference would be used in order to give Rutte and acting Health Minister Hugo de Jonge the chance to introduce further coronavirus measures.
In spite of the drop in the number of coronavirus infections and deaths over the past week, both men said the curfew was necessary due to the alarming rise in the number of cases of the new highly contagious mutation of the virus: "It is necessary that we take extra measures as soon as possible," said De Jonge. The government hopes these measures will prevent a third wave of the virus.
These measures have also been introduced in order to reduce the number of infections and allow for schools in the Netherlands to reopen on February 9 and no later. Rutte had hoped to reopen primary schools and childcare facilities on January 25, but following recent advice from the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) he decided to keep them closed.
Stricter coronavirus measures in the Netherlands
The following measures have been announced for the Netherlands. They will remain in place alongside the existing measures.
The curfew will be in effect between 8.30pm and 4.30am - slightly later than had initially been expected. Anyone outside of their homes without a valid reason within this time frame will receive a fine of 95 euros, but the violation will not appear on their criminal record.
Valid reasons to leave your home include:
- A (medical) emergency
- Assisting someone in need
- Walking the dog
- Travelling to leave / return to the Netherlands
Mayors across the Netherlands have said that there must be at least a few exceptions to these strict rules, but they would like to keep the exceptions to a minimum. Anyone outside during curfew hours will have to have written proof that they can / must be outside. The curfew will also mean that all shops must close by 8.30pm.
The House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) - which has been vocal in their criticism of a potential curfew - is set to debate the measure on Wednesday afternoon and will have to approve Rutte's proposal. If they approve it, it will take a few days before the measure comes into effect - the exact date will likely be announced on Thursday evening.
Stricter rules for home visits
In addition to the curfew, Rutte and De Jonge announced a tightening of the existing home visit rules, with immediate effect. Up until now, a household has been permitted to receive a maximum of two guests per day. This has now been reduced to only one.
Furthermore, Rutte has limited the number of people that can be present at a funeral. From January 25, instead of 100 people, a maximum of 50 people can be in attendance.
New travel restrictions and a travel ban
The government has also announced a travel ban for all countries outside of the Schengen zone where a (potentially) dangerous mutation of the virus is spreading. The ban will come into effect on January 23, and will affect the following countries:
- The United Kingdom
- South Africa
- Cape Verde
- French Guinea
There are some exceptions to the ban: professional sportspeople and journalists will still be allowed to travel, for example. Business trips will not be allowed to go ahead.
Rutte also announced stricter testing requirements for those arriving in the Netherlands. Not only must travellers have evidence of a recent negative PCR test result, but they must also take a rapid test before departing for the Netherlands.
De Jonge also announced that the Netherlands would be postponing the date of the second coronavirus vaccine dose in order to allow for more people to receive the first dose.
Instead of the second dose being administered after three weeks, it will be administered after six weeks. This change will mean that people over the age of 60 will be vaccinated earlier than planned.
How effective will the curfew be?
With the number of cases on the decline, many may be wondering whether a curfew is really necessary, or if it will have any effect on the number of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands.
According to the OMT, a curfew "could lead to a significant and relevant further reduction in the total number of Covid-19 cases by February 9," and that the measure could reduce the overall R number by 8 to 13 percent.
A number of countries, including South Africa, France, and Belgium, have already introduced curfews.