Monday 17 May 2021

Lockdown extended and no foreign holidays till May, ministers confirm

Health minister Hugo de Jonge during the press conference. Photo: Sem van de Wal ANP

Lockdown rules are being extended until April 20 because rising cases mean it would be unsafe to relax the restrictions, prime minister Mark Rutte told reporters on Tuesday evening.

In a minor concession, the start of the night-time curfew has been put back to 10pm from March 31, to take into account the switch to summer time and lighter evenings. Rutte said the decision was unanimously backed by safety board chiefs and the police.

The government also extended its advice not to travel abroad until the middle of May, quashing earlier hopes that people could travel during the school holidays that begin on April 26.

‘We will keep on looking at what we can do, because it all depends on the figures,’ Rutte said. ‘All the models show there is a lot of uncertainty … and and we will keep monitoring them. We can work quickly if necessary.’

He pointed out that the situation in the Netherlands is similar to neighbouring countries. Paris reimposed a strict lockdown this week while Germany has extended its lockdown, even though infections there are lower than in the Netherlands.

‘We need to remember that this is not just something that impacts on the Netherlands,’ Rutte said. This is why the recommendation not to travel abroad has been extended to mid-May, he said. ‘This means, stay at home during the May holidays.’

The government cannot yet give any advice about the summer holidays, he said.

Staying home

Rutte also again urged on people to keep to the rules. ‘Less than half of people who have symptoms are staying at home,’ he said. ‘But if you stick to the rules, you are helping hospitals, schools and so on… Our behaviour is the fastest way to relax the rules,’ he said.

The government is aiming to make quarantine compulsory by law by the middle of May, after which travel restrictions can be relaxed. The requirement for people arriving by air and sea to show a negative test could also be extended to motorists.

Health minister Hugo de Jonge said that by mid May, four million vaccinations will have been placed. And by May 15, everyone over the age of 60 will have had their first vaccination.

By the beginning of July, everyone who wants to be vaccinated should have had at least one shot, he said.

In the meantime, the Fieldlab experiments to allow people to take part in large events, will be expanded, he said. By May, there will be extra drop-in testing centres to enable this, he said.

Rutte and De Jonge will hold their next press conference on April 13.

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