Monday 06 July 2020

Pressure mounts on Dutch ministers over school, cafe and shop closures

Public transport firms are taking steps to protect drivers. Photo: Manon Bruininga | Hollandse Hoogte

Pressure is mounting on the Dutch government to close schools, cafes and restaurants, and all but essential shops, to stem the spread of coronavirus and reduce cross-border movement.

Ministers are due to meet officials from the Dutch federation of medical specialists on Sunday afternoon after the organisation called on the government to close all schools and daycare centres.

The government has been adamant that schools remain open so that healthcare workers can continue to do their jobs, but the decision has been slammed by many, including doctors in countries where coronavirus is rampant.

‘We are asking politicians to do the maximum necessary,’ said federation chairman Peter Paul van Benthem. ‘We want to keep our doctors and all care workers safe, and that includes at home.’

Van Benthem also called on officials do make sure hospitals have enough protective equipment. ‘There is an urgent need for face masks and testing material,’ he said. ‘It is extremely demotivating for Intensive Care staff and elsewhere in hospitals when we don’t have the stuff we need.’

Many school heads also want to close and some have already said they will do so regardless of the government. Insiders have told broadcaster NOS that ministers are now expected to comply and close all educational establishments from Monday.

Restaurants

Meanwhile, experts in Belgium are calling on the Netherlands to follow its lead and close restaurants and bars, as people living in the border area make use of Dutch cafes and eateries.

‘If we want to avoid an Italian scenario, countries have to take the same measures,’ three academics say in the De Morgen newspaper. ‘Now the bars and cafes are closed in Belgium, the Belgians are going to the south of the Netherlands, where the number of corona infections is rising sharply. This is unacceptable.’

The number of patients in the Netherlands testing positive for coronavirus rose by 155 to 959 on Saturday, the public health institute RIVM said in its latest daily briefing.

In addition, two more people have died of the disease, taking the total deaths to 12. All were older people with underlying health problems, the RIVM said.

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