The Hague, Netherlands: The Netherlands will extend many coronavirus measures until March 2 due to concerns over the “rapid rise” of a variant first identified in Britain, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Tuesday.
Rutte however confirmed that primary schools will reopen on February 8 and said that some shops will open next week for the collection of orders, while a curfew that is due to run until February 10 will be reviewed following the advice of scientists.
The overall restrictions, which were due to end on February 9, are the country’s toughest yet, with all schools, non-essential shops, bars, and restaurants shut and people limited to one guest at home per day.
“Today with the cabinet, we have come to the conclusion that it is inevitable the current lockdown is almost completely extended until at least March 2,” Rutte told a press conference.
“We cannot ignore the rapid rise of the British variant. And we know that we will soon be presented with the bill for too much optimism now.”
The plan to reopen primary schools was first announced by the education minister at the weekend.
The Dutch government is under pressure after the introduction of the curfew on January 23 sparked the worst riots seen in the Netherlands for 40 years.
Dutch officials say that numbers of infections are falling but that up to two-thirds of new Covid-19 cases in the country now involve the so-called British variant.
Rutte said the curfew was still due to expire on February 10, but that he had asked the government’s team of coronavirus experts for advice on how to proceed on the “whole package” of restrictions before then.
Rutte and his government are currently operating in a “caretaker” capacity until elections on March 17, after resigning over a scandal involving childcare benefits.