Rutte to host press conference: New coronavirus measures on the way?
After a weekend of meetings with experts and fellow cabinet ministers, and mounting pressure to take further action against the rising number of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte has announced a last-minute press conference for Monday, December 14, at 7pm.
Additional press conference on Monday
Not even a week since he last addressed the Netherlands, Rutte has decided to give a speech about national coronavirus measures from his official office in The Hague. The last time he spoke to the public from his office was back in the spring, and sources are saying this decision is an attempt to re-establish a sense of urgency in the people of the Netherlands.
At the press conference on December 8, Rutte left many disappointed but not surprised when he said no measures would be relaxed for the Christmas holidays. He also stated that, should the coronavirus situation in the Netherlands worsen, he would be forced to hold another press conference before Christmas and announce additional measures. He is expected to announce stricter measures in his speech on Monday.
Rutte and cabinet ministers to meet on Monday morning
On Saturday, rumours began to emerge that Rutte would be hosting another press conference, and it was announced that on Sunday he would be meeting with his cabinet and other experts, including director of the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM), Jaap van Dissel.
In addition to a press conference, Monday will also see the cabinet meet again at an additional so-called crisis meeting to discuss coronavirus measures. While it is not yet known what measures will be taken, measures that are believed to be discussed are the closure of non-essential shops, the closure of zoos, theme parks, museums and cinemas, and the closure of schools.
A number of mayors across the Netherlands have also expressed concern for New Years Eve celebrations, and have requested that a curfew be implemented on December 31. It is therefore likely that the cabinet is also discussing this possibility.
Are additional coronavirus measures coming to the Netherlands?
Following Rutte’s speech on Monday evening, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge will address the press. Before he attended the crisis meeting on Monday morning, he highlighted the “ongoing pressure on healthcare” and told journalists that the current coronavirus situation was “serious” and that more action was required.
The fact that Rutte and De Jonge have taken the decision to hold additional meetings and speak to the public on Monday instead of on Tuesday (when government press conferences have typically been held) suggests that they are unwilling to waste any time, and want to take action as soon as possible.
In an interview with NOS over the weekend, Van Dissel said he did not want to speculate on what measures could or should be taken as that was a decision for the Dutch government, but he did emphasise that not taking action and thereby allowing the number of cases to rise would be unwise: “We focus on three points: protect the vulnerable, keep an eye on the virus and keep regular care intact. That is why it is not always the case that a tightening [of rules] is necessary. But in general: if you want to lower numbers, you will apparently have to do more than is being done now."