Mark Rutte introduces limits for at-home gatherings to halt coronavirus spread
Speaking at the coronavirus press conference on Tuesday, August 18, Prime Minister Rutte and Health Minister De Jonge expressed concern for the rising number of coronavirus infections, and announced some new measures to halt a second wave of the virus.
Measures for at-home gatherings
Prime Minister Mark Rutte addressed concerns regarding the spread of the virus among smaller gatherings of friends and families, for example at home at birthday or dinner parties. He urged the public to hold no parties, drinks, or other gatherings at home. He highlighted how, while people may feel safe around friends and family, this feeling does not equal safety.
Any gatherings that do take place within a home now fall under a new coronavirus measure limiting the number of guests a household may receive to maximum six people (not including children under the age of 12). There must also be a distance of 1,5 metres maintained between all guests at all times.
Any gatherings are instead encouraged to take place within a catering (horeca) establishment, where there is more space, everyone is assigned a seat, and a distance of 1,5 metres is easier to maintain.
Working from home
The Prime Minister also reiterated his message asking people to work from home as much as possible. He rejected rumours that this advice would be relaxed from September 1: "The advice remains: work from home as much as possible, even after September 1."
Measures in schools
A number of primary and secondary schools across the Netherlands started up again following the summer holidays on Monday, August 17. Some members of the public had expressed concerns about the ventilation in school buildings, and how coronavirus measures would be followed by students.
Rutte made clear at the press conference that a child showing any symptoms of the virus must stay home, and a child with a family member who has tested positive for the virus must also stay at home - no exceptions.
Some schools have recently announced the decision to introduce a face mask rule for their students in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.
Importance of regional measures
Similarly to the press conference on August 6, both Rutte and De Jonge stated they hoped to avoid a second national lockdown, and highlighted the key role regional measures would play in preventing this. However, both said that, if infections continue to rise again, national measures (specifically national horeca measures) will be re-implemented. "The virus is everything but done with us" De Jonge said.
De Jonge also emphasised the importance of working together as a country to keep the virus under control, saying that the government or the mayors alone would not be able to make a difference. Some regional measures are already in place, in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. However, Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema is expected to announce further measures for the Dutch capital at a press conference at 8:30 pm on Tuesday, August 18.
The government has also announced that, following advice from the Outbreak Management Team (OMT), the mandatory quarantine period has been reduced from 14 days to 10 days.