The Netherlands aims to bring in a curfew this weekend which will run from 8.30 pm to 4.30 am, but it is up to parliament to decide if it should go ahead, prime minister Mark Rutte told a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
Given it will take a couple of days to organise things, the curfew will not come into effect until Saturday or Sunday, if parliament votes in favour during Thursday’s debate, Rutte said. It will run until at least February 9.
In addition, the Dutch are halting all flights from Britain, South Africa and all South American countries from Saturday in a bid to stop the spread of more virulent variants of coronavirus from taking hold.
New quarantine regulations are also being worked on, including a register of all new arrivals, and spot checks will be carried out to make sure people are staying home. The flight ban will last until the compulsory quarantine has been implemented in law.
Home visits are also to be reduced from two to one within a 24 hour period from Wednesday evening, apart from people who are involved in crucial care roles.
‘All experts in the Outbreak Management Team are very clear that we have to do the maximum now,’ Rutte said. ‘Everyone is warning that the third wave must be taken seriously. We have to do our best to make sure the third wave is as small as possible.’
The coalition government is currently acting in a caretaker capacity and cannot take such major decisions without parliamentary approval, and this will be debated by MPs on Thursday.
‘I would call on all the parties to recognise that we are now at a crucial moment for our safety and public health,’ the prime minister said. ‘All we can do is say to the Netherlands and to parliament, that this is the advice we have and that we are convinced there is no alternative.’
The curfew, as currently envisaged, means no-one may be on the streets at night unless they are carrying out essential care duties or have a declaration from their employer. Dog owners may walk their pets – but not share the same dog around.
The curfew also means supermarkets and other shops will have to close their doors earlier, Rutte said. However, food delivery services can continue, as long as the worker has a declaration.
Health minister Hugo de Jonge said the infection figures are going down but not by enough. The more infectious variant of the virus first identified in Britain now accounts for one in 10 cases, but will have gone up to five in 10 by February, he said.
‘The current coronavirus rules are not enough to keep the new variants under control,’ he said. ‘We have seen how dramatically things can change in Britain and Ireland.’