Netherlands closes schools, bars, cafes and restaurants in coronavirus fight

All schools and daycare centres in the Netherlands will be shut from Monday 16 March until at least Monday 6 April in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. In addition, bars, cafes, restaurants, sex clubs, cannabis cafes, saunas and sports clubs will all close their doors at 6pm today (Sunday 13 March) for three weeks. This is what health minister Bruno Bruins said in a televised news conference after a crisis meeting with health experts and education officials.

This move is in contrast to the government’s announcement last week, on Thursday 12 March, when they said that schools and daycare centres should remain open so that essential workers can continue to do their jobs. Prime minister Mark Rutte’s cabinet had initially resisted closing schools, but changed course after coming under pressure from educators and medical specialists.  Education minister Arie Slob said in today’s press conference: “It has become clear that it was impossible for many schools to remain open, as many teachers were already sick at home and because of safety risks, Therefore, we have decided to close all schools and daycare centers.”

Solutions will be found for healthcare, police and shop workers, education minister Arie Slob said.

Bruins said the move to close cafes and bars had been prompted in part by ‘undesirable’ tourism from Belgium, which borders Noord-Brabant, the region of the Netherlands with the highest concentration of coronavirus cases.

All saunas, sex clubs, sport schools and cannabis coffee shops were also ordered to close at 18:00 today.

The government asked the country’s 17 million residents in the Netherlands to keep their distance when leaving the house. “Do not hoard, it’s not necessary; there is enough to go around”, Slob said.

Asked if air travel would be restricted, following countries such as Denmark and Spain, Bruins these are probably not the last measures the government will take: “I am certain these will not be our last measures, the situation keeps developing very rapidly and we will keep deciding on further measures based on the knowledge of experts. I cannot speculate on what measures these will be, but it is clear that more will follow.”

He also said research was being carried out into Noord-Brabant into the risk of young people, who are less likely to fall ill with the virus, passing it on to others.

Prime minister Rutte is scheduled to address the nation on Monday evening to explain these new measures.


[Source: NOS Liveblog]