Tuesday 02 June 2020

Stop shaking hands to halt coronavirus, says Dutch government

Mark Rutte and Jaap van Dissel (RIVM) at the press conference. Photo: Lex van Lieshout ANP via HH

The Dutch cabinet had advised people stop shaking hands as a new measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus. In addition, people living in Noord-Brabant province, where most infections are located, are being urged to work at home when possible.

The new measures were announced by prime minister Mark Rutte following crisis talks with ministers, health officials and representatives from the emergency services on Monday evening.

The number of patients in the Netherlands reached 321 on Monday, of whom 90 have no obvious source of infection. Noord-Brabant has by far the most cases – 134. By contrast, there have been just four cases so far in Amsterdam.

‘Like last week, we are still in the containment phase,’ Rutte told reporters after the meeting. ‘Our aim is to remain in this phase for as long as possible.’

Stopping shaking hands, he said, is one measure to prevent the spread of the disease. ‘It is a simple and sensible measure but one which we believe will be effective at this time,’ Rutte said.

People in Brabant should continue to stay home if they have any symptoms but in addition, they are now being requested to work from home if at all possible up to March16. In addition, employers are being asked to look at spreading the working day so that fewer people are together at the same time.

Coronavirus in the Netherlands; what you need to know

Rutte caused raised eyebrows at the end of the press conference when he stepped away from the microphone and shook hands with RIVM chief Jaap van Dissel. ‘Oops, sorry, force of habit,’ Rutte said.

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