Ministers meet to discuss shop closures, Rutte to speak to the nation


Government ministers are holding an emergency cabinet meeting on Monday morning to discuss the introduction of tougher measures to stem the spread of coronavirus following the continuing rise in positive test results.

On Sunday the number of new cases reached nearly 10,000, prompting ministers responsible for the pandemic to meet health experts on Sunday afternoon. Ministers are now meeting the rest of the cabinet from 9am, and at 7pm, prime minister Mark Rutte will hold a televised address from his office in The Hague.

The speed of ministers’ reactions to the sharp rise in cases reflects the seriousness of the situation, political commentators said. Germany on Sunday announced it will go into total lockdown this week, and that too is likely to have an impact on the Dutch position, given the potential for cross-border traffic.

Top of the list of likely measures is the closure of non-essential shops and garden centres. Several cities this weekend struggled to cope with large numbers of shoppers and urged people to stay away.

Museums, theatres, amusement parks and zoos are also likely to be shut for several weeks. The situation facing schools is, as yet, unclear. Prime minister Mark Rutte was adamant last week that schools should remain open, but cases at secondary schools in particular have been mounting.

Contact professions, such as hairdressers and nail studios, may also have to close their doors.

According to RTL Nieuws, ministers are also considering imposing a curfew at New Year’s Eve, which local mayors say would be easier to police than the firework ban. That too is likely to be on the table at Monday morning’s talks.

Rutte did say last week that any new measures would not lead to changes to the three guests rule on December 25 and 26.

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