Coronavirus press conference: Reactions to national semi-lockdown
At a government press conference on Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that the Netherlands was headed into a semi-lockdown in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus. But many are critical of this approach.
Coronavirus press conference
Nearly 7,4 million people tuned in to watch Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge announce the next steps that would be taken to halt the second wave. While this doesn’t make it the most-watched press conference to date - April 21 holds that record with 7,8 million - it does come close.
At the press conference, Rutte said the action taken now must be severe enough to “knock down” the virus. He asked members of the public not to be the “stubborn person who pushes the boundaries of the rules,” but to instead be the person who takes responsibility when it is necessary.
Criticism from fellow MPs
Rutte faces criticism from his fellow politicians. Even those who feel that the most recent measures are necessary state they are only needed because of the cabinet’s failure to take action up until this point: “This has everything to do with the laissez-faire attitude of the cabinet, failing testing policy and lack of central direction," Jesse Klaver (GroenLinks) said.
Others feel these measures are not the one, with Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders saying the cabinet has “made an incredible mess.” He fears for the future survival of the catering industry (horeca), and would rather see a commitment to researching the spread of the virus via aerosols.
On Wednesday - Rutte’s 10-year anniversary as Dutch Prime Minister - he will face a likely heated debate in the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer), as MPs discuss the semi-lockdown and promise of an imminent mandatory face mask rule.
Responses to the semi-lockdown
A number of industries across the country are concerned about what the new measures might mean for them. However, some are supportive of the new measures.
BOAs and Dutch police
The union representing community officers (BOAs) across the Netherlands supports the new measures, saying that they are clear and easy to enforce. “We have to go back to the discipline at the beginning of March. If we are strict for four weeks, we may be able to celebrate Christmas and New Year's Eve together again,” union spokesperson Richard Gerrits says.
The Dutch police, on the other hand, says enforcing these new measures will require more manpower, and that some officers will have to be removed from certain duties and reassigned to enforce coronavirus measures.
Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) says they have “major concerns” about the future of amateur football. They fear that, without matches to look forward to, many people will stop playing altogether. “This is of great concern to us. We too see the sharp increase in corona figures and understand the need for measures. But we must not lose sight of the benefits that sports and amateur football offer.”
Museums and gyms
Museums and gyms across the Netherlands are pleased that they will be able to remain open and that no extra measures will be enforced. The Museum Association says they are "pleased that the cabinet recognises the importance of the cultural sector and that it has confidence in the efforts of museums and the public to get corona under control."
Secondary schools in the Netherlands welcome the news of an imminent mandatory face mask rule, saying that it provides clarity and will be easier to enforce than the current urgent advice.
“It is good that education can continue physically as much as possible,” emphasises Jan de Vries, chairman of the Education Association.
Future of the Dutch catering industry is at stake
Probably the most drastic measure announced by Rutte was that all catering establishments would be closed from 10pm on Wednesday, October 14 for (at least) four weeks. The union representing hospitality businesses, Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN), believes this enforced closure will lead to a wave of bankruptcies across the country.
KHN chairman, Robèr Willemsen, told the AD: “This closure is really the final blow for many catering entrepreneurs. I am therefore very concerned about the future catering landscape.” The union is calling for financial support from the Dutch government to cover all wages and fixed costs. The Association of Dutch Brewers is also calling for financial support for the catering industry.
According to experts on the Outbreak Management Team (OMT), the enforced closure of restaurants was not absolutely necessary, as long as sufficient health checks and registrations were completed upon arrival, diners were seated 1,5 metres away from one another, and staff wore face masks or shields.