Reactions to the three-week lockdown extension
At a press conference on January 12, Prime Minister Mark Rutte informed the public that the coronavirus lockdown would, as had been predicted, be extended by three weeks. While this announcement may not have come as a surprise, the news that the Dutch government was seriously considering implementing a curfew may have shocked people across the country.
Almost 6,5 million people tuned in to watch the press conference. This is how businesses, industries and experts have reacted to Rutte’s decision.
The possibility of a coronavirus curfew in the Netherlands
Even before the press conference on Tuesday, news had emerged that Rutte and his cabinet ministers were discussing the option of introducing a national curfew in the hopes that this would help curb the spread of coronavirus. However, mayors across the country are said to have opposed the measure, saying it would require too many police officers and community officers (BOAs) to enforce it effectively.
Nevertheless, Rutte revealed that he had asked the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) to investigate the possibility of a curfew and issue their advice on the decision as soon as possible. Rutte is said to be looking into the additional measure due to rising concern about the spread of the highly contagious “British” variant of the virus. It is not yet known when the OMT will issue their advice, but Rutte did reveal he intends to review plans for the measure early next week.
In advice published on January 11, the OMT said a curfew was necessary to prevent (large) gatherings of young people, and Rutte hopes the measure would prevent people making home visits to friends and family. A number of other countries, including Belgium and Spain, have already made use of curfews, but a number of political parties including D66 and GroenLinks have already spoken out against the introduction of such a severe measure.
How do experts feel about the three-week extension?
According to a survey conducted by I&O Research on behalf of NOS, 79 percent of people in the Netherlands support the lockdown extension, however many are critical of the government’s decision.
Economist Robin Fransman and GP André Steketee both believe the negative impact of these lockdowns outweigh the supposed health benefits. Steketee highlights the number of people suffering from (severe) mental health issues which are now worsening and going untreated as a result of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, according to De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB), the extension was “painful but inevitable.” Olaf Sleijpen, a board member at the bank, said the pandemic was the cause of the current economic crisis, and so the only way out of the crisis was to end the pandemic.
Sectors understand the measures but are concerned
The Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) has spoken out in favour of the extended lockdown, and is hopeful that the coronavirus measures will lead to a “quick victory,” thereby allowing for stadiums filled with fans in the not-too-distant future.
The culture and entertainment sector is also greatly affected by the lockdown and is concerned about the future of the industry, but on the whole, museums and theatres say they are prepared for what the future holds. The Museum Association supports the extension but is worried about what will happen when the emergency financial aid comes to an end in June. The Association of Theatre and Concert Hall Directors (VSCD) also supports the measures, but highlights the importance of financial support in keeping the performing arts scene in the Netherlands afloat.
The Christian National Trade Union (CNV) also said the lockdown is “necessary and inevitable” due to the spread of the newly discovered COVID-19 mutation. Representing catering establishments across the country, the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV) said they understood the extension, but “sincerely hope that this will be the last extension that the catering industry will have to suffer,” and is calling for more financial support to save jobs and businesses.