The Netherlands’ controversial Covid-19 curbs will be extended until April 20 in a bid to tackle climbing case rates, Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said, just days after police clashed with anti-lockdown protesters in Amsterdam.
The country’s lockdown was due to end on March 31, but Rutte said on Tuesday that public health measures could not be eased, amid a 16% increase in cases over the past week to more than 46,000 on Tuesday.
The Netherlands’ controversial curfews, which sparked several riots earlier this year, will now begin an hour later at 10pm, running until 4:30am so they are easier to police in summer, Rutte said.
“This is a huge downer,” the PM told a news conference, as he outlined the changes to the measures, while pledging that the government would continue supporting businesses affected by the curbs.
Government recommendations that people not travel abroad are also extended until May 15, with only essential travel permitted due to the high infection rates of other nations.
Rutte said the “worrying figures” do not allow the government to ease the measures at this stage, with all the current restrictions, such as the closure of bars and restaurants set to remain in place.
On Saturday police in Amsterdam used water cannons and dogs to clear peaceful anti-lockdown protesters from the city’s Museumplein, an open grassy area where people often gather at weekends.
The Dutch capital and other large cities have seen frequent opposition to the government’s Covid restrictions. Chaos erupted over several nights of riots in January and hundreds of arrests were made.
Rutte’s government drew further anger last month after an appeals court reinstated the country’s curfews, reversing an earlier ruling that found the measures were “illegitimate.”
Last week the PM marginally increased his VVD party’s majority in parliament at the country’s national elections and is now in talks to form a coalition government.
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