Rutte: Coronavirus situation still tense, nightclubs can't reopen
At a press conference on Tuesday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte looked back on the six months that have passed since the coronavirus outbreak in March, saying that while the current situation was no longer alarming, it was still tense.
Rutte welcomed criticism
Speaking to a room of reporters in The Hague on Tuesday, September 1, Mark Rutte’s tone was slightly less sombre than it has been at previous press conferences. He highlighted the differences between life in the Netherlands now and back in March.
He also directly addressed those across the country who had been critical of him and his government’s actions. “It makes perfect sense,” he said, “There is no one truth about the best way to deal with the virus. We are open to criticism and questions - but we cannot ignore the numbers."
Coronavirus testing in the Netherlands
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge asked members of the public to only get tested for the virus if they are showing symptoms, as there currently isn’t the capacity to test everyone.
He also addressed the topic of the postponement of the coronavirus app, CoronaMelder, saying that until the testing capacity was increased nationwide there was no point in launching the app. He said anyone who finds out they have come into contact with someone who is infected should be able to get tested quickly.
Lastly, he stated that the results from the trials for five different potential vaccines seemed encouraging and that the government hoped to have the first vaccinations ready in early 2021. He asked people to be patient and to continue to keep their distance and wash their hands until there was a successful vaccine available.
No relaxed measures to come
September 1 was the final date on the coronavirus measures calendar, as it was initially expected that the last few measures would be lifted, allowing nightclubs to finally reopen. However, none of the existing measures were lifted.
Nightclubs to stay closed
Rutte stated that, while people in the Netherlands could now happily return to working out in gyms and enjoying a cold beer on a sunny terrace, any nightlife establishments would have to stay closed for the foreseeable future.
This announcement did not come as a surprise, however, it is yet another blow to an industry that is already suffering. Bas Louwers, owner of the nightclub Bitterzoet in Amsterdam, told AT5 it was the uncertainty about the future which worried him the most, but he held out hope that things could change by the end of the year.
Ban on cheering and singing
The ban on cheering or singing in large groups also remains in place. This means that sports fans or protesters are still not allowed to cheer at any demonstrations, sporting events, or concerts.
Testing in nursing homes
The Dutch government has also decided to follow the advice from the Outbreak Management Team to test staff and residents in nursing homes on a weekly basis. With this policy, the hope to avoid having to close down the homes to visitors as they did during the initial outbreak of the virus.
It was also announced that security regions will play a larger role in the fight against coronavirus. The government will analyse each of the 25 regions and determine an alert phase that will be updated weekly, or more regularly if necessary.
There will be three separate “phases”:
- Cautious (waakzaam) - situation is manageable, number of new infections is low
- Worrying (zorgelijk) - number of new infections is rising
- Serious (ernstig) - number of new infections is increasing rapidly, severe action is necessary
The government hopes this regular analysis will prevent certain regions from having to live with stricter coronavirus measures only because the situation is worsening in a city on the other side of the country.