Coronavirus: Netherlands closes restaurants and bars in new partial lockdown

Government abandons talk of ‘intelligent lockdown’ in urgent effort to slow cases

Employees of a cafe in Amsterdam watch a press conference by Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte on Tuesday evening about new coronavirus restrictions. Photograph: Remko De Waal/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

Employees of a cafe in Amsterdam watch a press conference by Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte on Tuesday evening about new coronavirus restrictions. Photograph: Remko De Waal/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

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With the most recent measures aimed at combating a second wave of Covid-19 showing no sign of working, the Netherlands has returned to “partial lockdown” – and has warned that a second full-scale lockdown may be unavoidable within weeks.

In a marked change of tone, prime minister Mark Rutte abandoned all previous mention of the Dutch campaign against the virus as an “intelligent lockdown”, describing the new regulations instead as “a hammer” to deal with the harsh reality that “too many people are not keeping to the rules”.

Mr Rutte and health minister Hugo de Jonge have been under increasing pressure to take tougher action – particularly from the head of the country’s intensive care consultants, Diederik Gommers, who described the government’s response to date as “half-baked”.

“I’m a supporter of going back into lockdown as soon as possible,” said Prof Gommers. “And not an ‘intelligent lockdown’ but a complete one. Without it, nothing will change.”

The new urgency comes as a second wave of coronavirus sweeps the densely populated centre of the country, including the main cities of Amsterdam, The Hague, and Rotterdam, all of which have been identified as Covid-19 hot spots – with unnecessary travel between them already banned.

There have been nearly 44,000 new cases of infection in the past week. The daily rate stood at a high of 7,393 in the 24 hours to Tuesday. And the Netherlands now has one of the highest per capita infection rates in the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Rutte warning

As of Wednesday, cafes, restaurants and bars shut again for four weeks, after which the impact of the partial lockdown will be reviewed. If there’s no significant improvement, a second full-scale lockdown will be authorised, Mr Rutte warned in a televised address on Tuesday evening.

The hospitality industry says this will mean additional losses of more than €1 billion for its members – and will be “the final blow” to many caterers.

There will be a nationwide ban on the sale of alcohol after 8pm. Hotels can remain open but their restaurants will be limited to guests. Retail opening hours will be restricted. The number of visitors allowed in the home will be three over a 24-hour period.

Outside of the home, impromptu gatherings will be limited to four, whether indoors or outdoors. Venues with seating can cater for a maximum of 40. Taking part in sports in groups of more than four is also forbidden.

In its previous restrictions at the start of October, the government “urgently advised” the wearing of masks in public places. However, this time masks will be mandatory in indoor spaces for everyone aged 13 and over.

Schools will remain open, and public transport won’t be restricted.