Dutch PM says curfew needed amid COVID-19 despite legal order to drop it

Bart H. Meijer, Reuters

Posted at Feb 17 2021 12:47 AM

A street is seen during a curfew following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on January 23, 2021. Piroschka Van De Wouw, Reuters/File Photo

AMSTERDAM - Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called on the country to respect a night-time curfew, saying it was still needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic despite a court ruling earlier on Tuesday that the measure lacked a legal basis.

Rutte's coronavirus policy was dealt a major blow when a court said his government had failed to make clear why it was necessary to use emergency powers at this stage of the pandemic. The government said it would appeal against the ruling.

The court said it would rule later on Tuesday whether the curfew should remain in place until the appeal hearing, which is to be held as soon as possible.

Rutte maintained that the curfew was needed to prevent a surge in infections due to more contagious new mutations of the virus.

"It would be very unwise to lift the curfew at this moment," Rutte told reporters. "We installed it in order to control the coronavirus as much as possible and to make it possible to regain our freedom in a safe way."

Rutte said his government was working on an emergency law to give the curfew a stronger legal footing and urged everyone in the Netherlands to limit their social contacts.

Dutch public health institute RIVM said all coronavirus measures including the curfew had helped limit the spread of the disease, despite the arrival of a more contagious variant first discovered in Britain.

Over two thirds of new cases in the Netherlands are of the British variant, the RIVM said on Tuesday, and those patients on average all infect more than one other person.

The curfew, which allows only people with a pressing need to be outdoors between 9 p.m. and 4:30 a.m., was extended last week until at least March 3.

The first curfew in the Netherlands since World War Two sparked several days of rioting by anti-lockdown protesters when it was introduced on Jan. 23.

It is part of a lockdown in which bars, restaurants and non-essential shops have been closed for months.

Infections remained roughly stable in the week through Tuesday, the RIVM said, but fewer people were willing to take a test due to the cold weather. 

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