The Netherlands will not accept any more passenger flights from China, Iran, Italy and South Korea for the next two weeks, in an effort to stem the spread of coronavirus.
The announcement was made by transport minister Cora Nieuwenhuizen after the weekly cabinet meeting on Friday. Other countries may be added at a later date.
The measure will come into effect at 6pm today and the government will look into measures to bring back Dutch nationals currently in those countries, the minister said.
Despite the government’s decision not to close schools, around 25% of children were not in school on Friday, according to Dutch media reports. A number of schools have already said they will close regardless.
‘Every break and change of class, 1,400 pupils walk through our corridors,’ Kees Versteeg, rector of the Griftland college in Soest, told broadcaster NOS. ‘We want to do justice to the safety of our pupils.’
The British School of Amsterdam, where there was a coronavirus scare last week, and the International School of Amsterdam are also closing their doors until the end of the month. The British School in the Netherlands will also shut, until April 20.
Prime minister Mark Rutte said at his Friday afternoon press conference that he recognised that the decision not to close schools was a difficult one and that a lot is being asked of educational institutes.
Rutte stressed that the decision had been taken on the basis of expert opinion, and that teachers and pupils who are ill should stay home.
‘We cannot ask the impossible,’ he said. ‘If schools feel that the situation is becoming impossible and have to close, then I would ask them to think about how they can provide something for the children of our healthcare workers, our police officers and our shop workers, the people keeping our supermarket shelves full.’
During his press conference Rutte praised the way that people are adapting to the new situation and that he recognised how much is being asked of them.
But he had harsh words for people who have been hoarding food and other supplies, leading to empty supermarket shelves, describing them as ‘antisocial’.
‘The supermarket sector assures us they have enough supplies and we will not run short,’ he said. ‘Hoarding is not only unnecessary but will have an impact on others.’
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