The Netherlands is extending its nighttime curfew for another three weeks in an attempt to further reduce the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, but will also relax other measures, outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced Tuesday.
High school and secondary vocational school students will be allowed back in the classroom on a part-time basis as of March 1. Two days later, most professions involving close contact — such as hair stylists, beauticians and some massage providers — will also be allowed to return to work.
The 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m curfew has been a contentious issue in the Netherlands since it was first introduced in mid-January, with anti-curfew riots shaking several cities for three executive days.
On Friday, the Dutch parliament’s upper house approved legislation to keep the nighttime curfew after a court ruling said the measure lacked legal justification.
Rutte warned that a third wave of the virus is inevitable according to experts, while the pressure on hospitals and nursing homes is already high.
“That’s one reality,” he said. But the other reality is that “we are getting pretty fed up,” he added, citing an increase in loneliness and depression among the elderly as well as children falling behind in school.
“Social, economic and psychological consequences are piling up. It chafes, it pinches, it squeaks and it creaks,” he said. That’s why, Rutte added, “we are now entering a phase where we are prepared to take a little more risk.”
The public health agency RIVM said on Tuesday that the number of positive coronavirus tests was 19 percent higher in the third week of February, partly as a result of increased testing. The decline in hospital admissions slowed markedly, while intensive care admissions increased by nearly 25 percent.