Reactions to Rutte's 5-week coronavirus lockdown
Speaking from his official office in The Hague, Prime Minister Mark Rutte addressed the people of the Netherlands and, before announcing the new measures that would place in the country under lockdown, delivered a speech that served to remind the public of the severity of the situation and the importance of following the rules.
Almost 8,4 million people tuned in to listen to what the Prime Minister had to say - the highest number of viewers ever garnered by a coronavirus press conference or speech. Nearly 90 percent of all the people who were watching TV on Monday evening were watching Rutte’s speech.
People may have been eager to hear what Rutte had to say, but how have people responded to the strict lockdown measures that have been introduced just before the Christmas holidays?
Politicians support lockdown but fear for education and businesses
Among the political opposition, there is an abundance of concerns. Not only do some parties and politicians fear that the Dutch government was too slow in introducing new measures, thereby allowing the number of coronavirus infections to continue to grow, but others also worry about what the lockdown will mean for the future of businesses and students’ education.
Lillian Marijnissen, leader of the Socialist Party (SP) said on Twitter: “For weeks the number of infections grew and the cabinet hesitated... The wasted time now has serious repercussions for education, retailers, and many more.” Forum for Democracy leader Thierry Baudet voiced concerns about the future of the hospitality industry, saying the measures are “destroying lives.”
As for coalition parties, they are supportive of the cabinet’s choice. ChristenUnie and D66 have said the measures are severe but inevitable, while GroenLinks has voiced concern about the decision to close primary schools.
Protesters take to the streets during Rutte's speech
Before the press conference on Monday, results of a survey conducted by I&O Research on behalf of NOS were published and showed that 68 percent of people in the Netherlands were in favour of stricter national measures. 49 percent of respondents said they would support the introduction of a “total lockdown,” and 44 percent said they would support the introduction of a curfew.
But now that the measures are official, how does the public feel? Speaking to RTL Nieuws after the announcement, one member of the public said “we will make the best of it,” while another praised Rutte for his speech.
However, anyone who tuned in on Monday would have found it difficult to ignore the loud background noise that could be heard. Throughout the entirety of Rutte’s speech, a group of protesters could be heard cheering and whistling - the protestors were demonstrating against the coronavirus measures. During his speech, Rutte addressed the protestors, saying “[coronavirus] is not a harmless flu, as some people outside here seem to think.”
Shortly after Rutte announced the national lockdown, the Dutch “Guerilla Mask Force” took to the streets in white protective clothing and masks to demonstrate the new measures. The so-called “slave march” took place in a number of towns and cities across the Netherlands, with protesters holding banners that read “Corona Agenda 2021,” and speakers broadcasting a number of statements, including “always be obedient,” and “sacrifice everything for hygiene.”
OMT: A strict lockdown in the Netherlands is necessary
The Outbreak Management Team supported Rutte’s decision to place the Netherlands under lockdown, saying that without a hard lockdown the country would have to live with strict coronavirus rules for many months. They say the lockdown should mean that catering establishments will be allowed to reopen earlier.
De Nederlandsche Bank has also expressed support for a hard lockdown, saying that introducing strict measures in the short term would have a more positive impact in the long-term, as it will hopefully alleviate some of the uncertainty and allow the economy to recover sooner (provided that the lockdown doesn’t last too long).
In a statement, the Christian National Trade Union (CNV) also expressed support for the lockdown, saying: “A blow for the Netherlands. For the economy. For workers. But a necessary blow. We must do everything we can to stop the boom in coronavirus infections.”
The latest batch of measures means that the cultural sector must, yet again, also come to a close, as theatres, museums, and cinemas have been told to close, but on the whole, the industry has expressed support for the measures. "We are disappointed that the museums are obliged to close for the third time, although we understand that public health comes first", Mirjam Moll, director of the Museum Association, told NU.nl. Similarly, the trade association for cinemas, NVBF, said they understood the lockdown, but were looking to apply for additional financial support in the new year.