Dutch set for first curfew to curb coronavirus

The Netherlands plans to impose a nationwide curfew for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the prime minister said on Wednesday.

The country will also ban flights from Britain, South Africa and South America from January 23 as concern mounts about the spread of Covid-19 variants, Mark Rutte told a press conference.

The curfew — from 8:30 pm to 4:30 am — is set to start “in the next few days” after it gets MPs’ approval and will last until February 10, Rutte said.

The government had initially planned to start it on Friday but a parliamentary debate was pushed back.

“It is a severe measure. Nobody wants a curfew. Nobody is applauding this,” Rutte said.

“Of course, we can’t and don’t want to take such a drastic step without the approval of parliament. If there is sufficient support only then we will take a definitive decision.”

Rutte and his cabinet resigned on Friday over a scandal involving child tax benefits, but they will continue to govern until elections in mid-March.

Dutch experts including the  Outbreak Management Team, tasked with informing the cabinet, have been alarmed by new strains of Covid-19 that are thought to be more transmissible.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, the British variant is indeed life-threatening,” Rutte said.

“Even if the cabinet had not resigned we would have done the same with such a drastic measure.”

Those violating the curfew face fines of 95 euros ($115).  

The Netherlands is already under its toughest measures since the start of the pandemic, including the closure of schools and non-essential shops.

Rutte also said people should only have one guest at home instead of the currently permitted number of two.