The first curfew in The Netherlands since World War II began on Saturday night to curb the spread of Coronavirus, and is scheduled to continue at least until 9 February.
No one is allowed to leave home during curfew hours, which run from 9:00 PM to 4:30 AM, and curfew breakers risk a fine of 95 euros, the Dutch Government announced.
Exceptions have been made, mainly for people returning home from funerals and those required to work during curfew hours, as long as they have a certificate of movement. However, owners of dogs are authorised to go outside without having to present the certificate.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte had announced on Wednesday that he intended to institute the curfew, and on Thursday he received parliamentary approval for the measure. Mr. Rutte explained that his decision was motivated by the British variant of COVID-19 and the “very great concerns that we all have.”
According to the Prime Minister, the curfew is meant to avoid compulsory daytime confinement.
Since the start of the pandemic, residents of the Netherlands had never been obliged to justify their movements, and opinions are divided on the new measure.
“It’s better, in fact, than having to stay at home all the time,” said 22-year-old Soya, who was in the neighbourhood of the central train station in The Hague a few hours before the curfew started. “I think they only want to make sure we don’t have to go that far.”
“It’s too strict a measure,” opined Harris (33) as he took a stroll outside the Binnenhof, seat of the Prime Minister and Parliament in The Hague. “It’s necessary, perhaps, but people’s state of mind isn’t really good right now. This is going to make things worse.”
In addition to generating opposition within the ranks of certain opposition parliamentarians, including extreme-right leader Geert Wilders, the curfew has aroused the ire of some citizens. On Saturday evening, the most frequently used keyword on Dutch Twitter was “AvondklokProtest,” – “curfew protest” in English.
Prime Minister Rutte and his Government resigned last week following a scandal over family allowances, but continue to take care of day-to-day matters until legislative elections to be held on the 17th of March.
In mid-December, the Government had announced the toughest anti-COVID measures imposed since the start of the pandemic, including the closure of schools and businesses considered non-essential.
Cafés and restaurants have been closed since mid-October.