Dutch ministers, health experts and other officials are meeting on Tuesday afternoon to discuss how long the Netherlands will extend what prime minister Mark Rutte has described as an ‘intelligent lockdown’ in the country’s bid to get coronavirus under control.
The current measures are due to expire on April 6, apart from the ban on organised events, which runs until June 1. On Monday it became clear that the deadline will be extended, but not what the new date is likely to be.
Some experts suggest the new deadline will be a lengthy one to give both companies and families clarity about where they stand.
In particular, parents want to know if school closures will continue far into April. The government initially opposed school closures, saying such a measure would not help slow the spread of the disease.
But as schools began closing anyway, and parents withdrew their children from schools which remained open, the government was forced to rethink. Schools have now been closed since March 16, apart from for the children of people doing essential jobs.
Education officials and schools are now concerned that some children are building up a disadvantage which may follow them throughout their school career.
A survey of 1,028 school heads shows that 75% of primary school chiefs are worried about the impact on vulnerable children without motivated parents to help them. Some 20% of children are at risk and local authorities are being urged to play a greater role in making sure they are both safe and still learning.
The public health institute RIVM is currently looking into the role of children in spreading coronavirus, but it is not yet clear when then research will be completed. The government did say it planned to wait for those results before taking a decision about reopening schools.
Cafes and bars
Cafes, bars and restaurants have been closed since March 15 and anyone with a ‘contact profession’, such as hairdressers, have also been banned from doing their job until at least April 6.
The government has drawn up a package of measures to help companies and the self-employed which is worth up to €20bn over the coming three months.
Nevertheless, finance minister Wopke Hoekstra has not ruled out some companies going bankrupt.
Measures to ensure social distancing, such as the 1.5 metre rule for groups, are set to continue for some time, experts say.
The press conference will take place at around 7pm. DutchNews.nl will be live tweeting the event.
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