Reactions to stricter coronavirus measures in the Netherlands
At the press conference on Monday evening, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge expressed concern for the growing number of coronavirus cases, and introduced a number of new national measures. However, not everyone supports the new strategy.
Dutch coronavirus press conference
Around 6,4 million people tuned in to the press conference on Monday, significantly more viewers than the press conference on September 18, when 3,6 million tuned in.
At the press conference, Rutte stated that the national coronavirus situation was only worsening with time and that it was therefore necessary to take a step back and introduce new national measures. He also highlighted the importance of every individual’s role, stating that the measures will only be effective if people follow the rules.
De Jonge shared some shocking figures, stating that, while there were currently around 3.000 new infections recorded every day, in only one week that was expected to rise to 5.000 a day. He stated that, by mid-October, around 400 intensive care beds were expected to be occupied - significantly higher than the 142 currently occupied.
“We’re doing our best, but the virus is doing better,” De Jonge said, saying that the population of the Netherlands needed to limit their freedoms so as to ensure that they would not have to give them up completely.
New coronavirus measures in the Netherlands
The Dutch government has introduced a number of rules, including a mandatory 10pm closing time for all catering and hospitality establishments (horeca), and a cap on the number of people for indoor and outdoor spaces (30 and 40 respectively).
Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema also issued urgent advice for people in the Amsterdam-Amstelland, Rotterdam-Rijnmond, Haaglanden (The Hague), and Brabant-Zuidoost (Eindhoven) regions to wear face masks in all public, indoor spaces, i.e. museums, shops, and gyms. Rotterdam mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, said he supports the advice, but would like to see it apply to the whole of the Netherlands
Harald Benink, professor of Banking & Finance at Tilburg University, told the AD: “There is a group of Dutch people who apparently are unable to act in the public interest. That is why action has to be taken now...The Dutch economy can take a beating, that's right, but these kinds of new measures are of course incredibly expensive. We really have to make sure that we get it under control together, otherwise we will destroy our economy.”
Reactions to face mask advice
These new measures are the government’s attempt to take back control of the virus’ spread, however many have voiced criticism for this approach. Opposition parties in the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) have said that the government’s face mask advice is unclear, and places too much responsibility on shopkeepers.
Similarly, prominent American physician and immunologist Anthony Fauci has issued advice to the director of the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM), Jaap van Dissel, asking him to reconsider his position on the effectiveness of face masks. Fauci said he thought the Netherlands was “going in the wrong direction.”
Bart Drenth, the chairman of MKB Amsterdam - a group that represents the interests of entrepreneurs in the capital - finds the face mask advice from Rutte and Halsema too casual: “If we have learned anything from the local trials, it is that you are better served with more clarity...And the lack of clarity is turned against those who have to enforce it, in this case, the entrepreneurs.”
However, the union representing hospitality businesses, Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN), supports and seconds the advice, and hopes that business owners will be more supportive of the rule if, after three weeks, they will no longer have to enforce a 10pm closing time.
Reactions to 10pm closing time
Pim Evers of the Amsterdam department of the KHN believes the early closing time will have little impact on the spread of the virus, and that many will continue to party elsewhere after the bars have closed. He also hopes that the government will be able to offer financial support or compensation to businesses affected by this measure.
News of the new measures has also reached Belgium, where municipalities fear an influx of Dutch customers at Belgian Horeca. Walter Luyten, mayor in the Belgian municipality of Ravels, said: “I'm happy for our horeca to get the extra customers from the Netherlands, but in times like these we don't really want so many people suddenly coming here."