MPs debate coronavirus curfew, many have doubts about the impact

The Netherlands has never had a female prime minister. Photo:

MPs will on Thursday morning debate the caretaker cabinet’s decision to introduce a curfew in the Netherlands in an effort to keep more virulent strains of coronavirus at bay.

Prime minister Mark Rutte announced plans for the curfew at a special press conference on Wednesday afternoon, but said it is up to parliament to decide if it should come into effect or not.

‘No one wants a curfew, no one is cheering,’ Rutte said. Nevertheless, ‘we have to grit our teeth one more time, now all the experts are warning about a third wave.’

Last year, a majority of MPs backed a motion by far right MP Geert Wilders which was against the introduction of a curfew, and coalition party D66 is known to still have doubts. Last week, D66 parliamentary party leader Rob Jetten said the idea of a curfew was ‘out of all proportion’.

During the press conference, Rutte appealed to MPs directly.  ‘We don’t have the luxury of being 100% sure [it will work] but we are absolutely convinced that there is no alternative,’ he said. ‘This is a very severe measure, but we are at a crucial point for both public safety and healthcare.’

January 20 press conference: what you need to know

The Netherlands has been in a lockdown since mid December but the number of coronavirus infections is not going down as fast as healthcare experts would like, and the more infectious version of the virus first identified in Britain is now taking hold.

The debate should have taken place on Wednesday afternoon but was delayed to Thursday on the request of D66 and minor coalition party ChristenUnie.

NOS political correspondent Ron Frensen said it is likely parliament will back the idea of a curfew, if ministers can properly support their decision with facts. However, MPs are likely to want to push up the start time from 8.30 pm to later in the evening as a compromise, he said.

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