Speculation is mounting ahead of Thursday evening’s press conference about what new measures the Dutch government plans to take to stem the increase in coronavirus cases.
Earlier this week, public health institute RIVM said the number of infections had almost doubled to 2,588 in the past week, and the national health board GGD warned that its job of tracing contacts is being made impossible by people refusing to follow the Covid-19 guidelines.
Sources have told broadcaster NOS that prime minister Mark Rutte is likely to announce that freshers’ week – special events for new students – will be subject to severe restrictions, such as an alcohol ban, this year because of the spread of the virus in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
The Netherlands two biggest cities have large student populations and the most new cases in recent weeks. One quarter of new infections are being found in people aged 20 to 29.
Other possible new measures include some means of compulsory testing at Schiphol airport, and an expansion of the use of face masks – even though officials say their role is limited.
Commentators also say Rutte will have to use the occasion to reassert his authority, six weeks after the last press conference. Opposition parties have accused the government of being invisible as the number of positive cases rises.
‘Prime minister Rutte can help to strengthen individual motivation and social responsibility,’ Groningen University social psychology professor Arie Dijkstra told NOS.
Dijkstra said he hoped Rutte would also stress that any new measures are temporary. ‘That must be clear,’ he said. ‘People want to invest [in prevention], but not if they think that that it will last the rest of their lives.’
DutchNews.nl will be live tweeting the press conference and will carry a full report online after it is over. The press conference is being broadcast on national television and is slated to start at 7pm.
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