Rutte weighs up full lockdown to bring infections down faster

Photo: @minpres via Instagram
Photo: @minpres via Instagram

Extra lockdown measures could be imposed even if coronavirus infections level off in the next few days in order to bring the virus down under control faster, prime minister Mark Rutte has told parliament.

Rutte said all options were still on the table, despite health minister Hugo de Jonge’s statement in a press briefing on Tuesday evening that the partial lockdown would be extended beyond its initial four-week period.

‘Have we decided if the package of measures will be extended until after mid-November? We haven’t decided,’ Rutte said during Wednesday afternoon’s debate.

The current measures, including the closure of all bars and restaurants, a ban on alcohol sales after 8pm and a limit of three visitors per household per day, represent the ‘severe’ level on the government’s risk scale, one step below full lockdown.

Rutte said a full lockdown was not out of the question, even if the numbers started to level off, ‘in order to speed up the decline in cases.’

‘But the question is what effect that has on the economy and people’s mental health,’ he added.

Opposition parties called for lockdown measures to be stepped up immediately to relieve pressure on the healthcare sector. ‘The facts state that we can’t wait, we have to take action,’ said Labour party leader Lodewijk Asscher.

But Rutte argued it would not lead to a lower peak in infections. ‘There is no quick fix here,’ he said.

Earlier Jaap van Dissel, head of infectious disease control at the public health agency RIVM, told MPs in a technical briefing that closing schools and going into a full lockdown would not cut the rate of infection any faster.

‘It would have an effect on the speed of the decline, and that does affect the burden on healthcare,’ Van Dissel added.

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