As anticipated, Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that the lockdown is going to be extended.
This time by three more weeks, until Tuesday, 9 February. “It’s, understandably getting increasingly difficult to keep at it,” he says. This is a tough message to deliver, Rutte admitted. “The socio-economic consequences are heartbreaking.”
“We can’t fully relieve business owners of their struggles. But, there’s light at the end of the tunnel now. So, it’s important that we help get as many jobs and businesses as possible through this crisis.”
Kids at school, 1,5m
Most highschool pupils will keep having online lessons until 7 February. Those who have to go to school – for exams, vulnerable students, and those following practical education – have to keep a 1,5m distance from each other as well as their teachers. If all goes well, primary and preschools will be able to reopen on 25 January.
Prime Minister Rutte didn’t want to say how long the lockdown could last. “On 2 February we will see what can be done from 9 February. It really has to be done step by step.”
People were again urged to not travel unnecessarily until, at least, mid-March. “It’s not over yet,” Rutte said. “Hang in there and support each other. Then we’ll make it through in the best possible way.”
The Prime Minister further spoke of being “greatly concerned” about the British variant of the virus. calls the reports from London and Ireland ‘alarming, and that’s putting it mildly’. “We don’t know everything yet,” added Hugo De Jonge, the Dutch Health Minister.
“But it certainly seems to be more contagious.” Rutte added, “When we consider the dramatic images from the UK, we know the situation can worsen rapidly.” He added that this variant would probably gain the upper hand in the Netherlands.
This mutation is currently responsible for only a few per cent of the total number of infections in the Netherlands. But according to De Jonge, this will probably not remain the case. He says the government is aiming to vaccinate all vulnerable people before the start of spring.
Next week it’s the nursing homes’ turn. By the summer, all people over the age of 60 should be immunised. But vaccinations don’t spell the end of the pandemic. “It’s just the beginning of the end,” De Jonge said.
He called on everyone to stay home after being tested. If you test positive, stay home, he again requested. “If you can’t for some reason, reach out for help. Don’t hesitate to make use of the numerous voluntary aid organisations that can assist you.”
Translator: Melinda Walraven