SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The current coronavirus measures are likely to be extended into March, prime minister Mark Rutte hinted on Thursday, during the debate on enshrining the curfew into emergency pandemic legislation.
‘It is not looking hopeful,’ Rutte told MPs, adding that there appears to be ‘little room’ to relax the rules. He and health minister Hugo de Jonge are due to hold a press conference on Tuesday to outline the latest situation.
The lockdown and curfew are due to expire on March 2, but the infection rate has scarcely budged since the last update, with an average of 3,600 daily cases last week.
Rutte and De Jonge said earlier their priority is to reopen secondary schools and on Friday 50 organisations, including Unicef and social work association Jeugdzorg Nederland, called on the government to do just that.
‘The seriousness of [the impact on pupils] does not appear to have gotten through to politicians,’ the organisations said. ‘The price they are paying is too high.’ The kids are alright, or are they?
Most secondary school pupils are having online lessons at home, although those in exam years are able to go to school.
Meanwhile, a group of academics and business people calling themselves Herstel NL (literally, recover NL), have published a plan to relax the measures considerably, by ‘protecting’ people with vulnerable health conditions instead.
They say shops, cafes, restaurants, schools and theatres can reopen if those more vulnerable to the impact of coronavirus stay home. ‘That could be by changing the way they do their jobs,’ Barbara Baarsma, economics professor and head of Rabobank Nederland, said.
Older police officers, she said, could do office based work rather than patrol the streets. The group is also suggesting the establishment of special ‘safety zones’ where the rules are very strict.
Key to the plan, Baarsma told broadcaster NOS is treating different groups in society differently and taking a ‘tailor made approach.’