Dutch extends coronavirus curfew until mid-March

Dutch extends coronavirus curfew until mid-March

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

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THE HAGUE,Netherlands(AFP)— The Netherlands will extend its controversial coronavirus curfew by a further two weeks despite the violent protests the measure sparked earlier this year, and could keep it in place longer if necessary, the prime minister said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the 9:00 pm to 4:30 am curfew, in force since January 23 and initially scheduled to be lifted on March 2, will now remain in place until March 15.

Furthermore,the government would decide next week whether to extend the curfew beyond March 15, the first day of legislative elections, Rutte told a news conference.

"At the moment, we're still in an incredibly difficult phase," Rutte told reporters, saying that experts viewed a third wave of Covid-19 infections as "inevitable".

The government nevertheless said that some other restrictions would be eased, with hair-dressing salons and more schools to be reopened after primary schools were already allowed to welcome pupils back at the beginning of February.

By contrast, bars, cafes and restaurants, as well as non-essential retailers would remain closed.

Rutte is currently acting as caretaker PM until elections next month after his government resigned in January over a scandal involving childcare payments.

And in the run-up to the vote, his administration's handling of the pandemic is coming under particularly close scrutiny.

The imposition of a night-time curfew at the end of January sparked three days of some of the worst protests the country has seen in decades, with more than 400 people arrested.

The curfew became the subject of a fierce legal battle and last week a lower court ordered the government to immediately lift it, arguing that such measures could only be used in sudden national emergencies such as a dyke breach.

But the order was suspended pending an appeal and a new ruling is now expected at the end of this week.

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