Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced on Monday evening a new series of measures to fight COVID-19, the most severe in the Netherlands since the start of the health crisis.
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A five-week lockdown will go into effect this week until January 19, he said.
“The Netherlands will close for five weeks,” Rutte said in a televised address from the seat of government in The Hague, where protesters gathered.
Cries and whistles could be heard during the address of Mr. Rutte. “We are not dealing with a simple flu, as the people behind us think,” he commented, acerbically, referring to these demonstrators.
All non-essential stores except supermarkets, grocery stores and pharmacies will be closed from Tuesday, while schools will close as of Wednesday.
It is recommended that Dutch citizens stay at home, and receive a maximum of two people per day, with the exception of Christmas when there may be three.
Museums, cinemas, performance halls and gyms as well as zoos will also be closed.
Cannabis outlets and restaurants can remain open for take-out, he added.
“We have to bite into this very bitter apple before we get better. Yes, it will get better, ”said Mark Rutte.
“It will not be now, nor in a week or in a month. But with the vaccine, 2021 will be a year of hope and light at the end of the tunnel. “
The Dutch had experienced in the spring a “smart containment” during which schools had remained closed, but not businesses, which made the measures announced Monday the most severe ever taken in the Netherlands since the start of the health crisis.
Until recently, the Netherlands was among the countries in Europe with the most flexible anti-COVID-19 measures, before being hit hard by the second and third waves.
This announcement comes as the number of contaminations is rising sharply in the country and the number of deaths has passed the 10,000 mark.
The location chosen for Monday night’s speech matters, with the Prime Minister’s office usually serving as the backdrop for more formal announcements.
“When I had a televised address for the first time almost nine months ago, I was really hoping it would be the last. But unfortunately I have to address you again in this way, ”said Mark Rutte.
The tightening of measures in the Netherlands coincides with the announcement in neighboring Germany of partial confinement from Wednesday.
Rutte has said he wants to ask neighboring countries to “discourage travel to the Netherlands”, while the Dutch government advises against “non-essential travel” abroad.