Dutch crisis committee announces tougher coronavirus measures

The government’s crisis committee met again on Monday afternoon and decided that extra measures are needed to halt the spread of coronavirus in the Netherlands. The Dutch government now bans gatherings until 1 June 2020, gives mayors more powers, and brings in the possibility of fines.

Pressure has been mounting after a sunny weekend when thousands of people went to parks, beaches and other popular outdoor areas, and gathered in one place, despite the government’s advice to not gather in groups and for people to keep at least a 1.5-metre distance from each other.

On Sunday, local mayors closed roads in an effort to stop people heading for the seaside as the Dutch death toll from corona virus rose by 43. Prime minister Rutte said he was highly irritated about groups defying pandemic rules: “That is antisocial. It has to stop,” he said.

The new rules include fines when people disregard the regulations, and an order that no more than three people stand together within their 1.5-metre personal space. Fines equal €400 per person, and up to €4000 and possible closure for businesses that violate the ban the penalty. Mayors in the Netherlands will also get more power to enforce the new rules, and police could be used to enforce the law at the discretion of the authorities involved.

The existing ban on gatherings, meetings and events of over 100 people, also now covers smaller groups. The Dutch government bans gatherings, also with less than 100 people, until 1 June. For now, the minister for justice Ferdinand Grapperhaus said that families should not even gather for birthday parties if they cannot maintain 1.5-metre distance from one another.  There could be some exemptions introduced after 6 April, including for funerals and weddings, but more information will be provided by the government at a later date.

This is not a total lockdown, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said at the press conference. In effect, the Netherlands is going into an ‘intelligent lockdown’. “People need to remain in their homes as much as possible.” Do not go out unless you have to leave to go to work in a vital function, or to do shopping. Go shopping alone. And if you do want to go for a walk, don’t go in a group. Always keep  1.5-metre distance from one another. Persons in the same household, such as families, and young children are excluded, from the 3-person maximum rule while inside the home.

People who are sick must stay home, as well as those in their household. Without a fever, only the person exhibiting symptoms of a cold, cough or flu, including shortness of breath, must stay home. “If you do get sick, you can infect others. We live with 17 million people together.” The measure is meant to protect those with the most vulnerable health in society, including the elderly.

Mayors are given emergency powers to ban groups of three or more people from being together if they are not keeping the 1.5-metre distance rule and to close parts of their towns and cities where people are flouting the new regulations. Shops will have to make sure the measures they are introducing to keep customers apart are displayed at the entrance. Shops which do not keep the rules will be subject to fines of up to €4000.

A decision about whether or not schools, cafes and restaurants should remain closed after the original deadline of 6 April will be taken on oor at that date, ministers said. The closure has also now been applied to hairdressers and nail studios, as well as casinos.



*This is an ongoing situation and it is advisable to check the websites of the relevant authorities to obtain the most up-to-date information.

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