Government measures prompted by the coronavirus pandemic are “unprecedented in peacetime,” says Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte Monday, but he vowed not to impose a national lockdown on the Netherlands.
“Many people have the feeling that we are on a roller coaster, which is going to ride faster and faster … The measures are unprecedented for countries in peacetime,” Rutte said in a rare televised address to the nation.
The governments of Spain and Italy have already imposed severe restrictions in an effort to stem the outbreak, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced stricter measures on Monday evening.
Rutte said that imposing a complete lockdown “may seem attractive on the face of it, but experts point out that it wouldn’t be a matter of days or weeks. In that scenario, we would actually have to shut down our country for a year, or even longer, with all the consequences that follow.”
Instead, Rutte said that his government had chosen to control the risk of the virus as far as possible in order to build up immunity to the virus — which “may take months or even longer” — and to make sure that the hospitals have enough capacity to help sick patients.
Rutte added that the government will check on a daily basis how long the measures may be needed and whether more should be done to contain the virus.
There is “no simple way out” of the crisis, which is set to infect a large part of the population in the Netherlands, Rutte said.
It’s very unusual in the Netherlands for a prime minister to address the country. The last time it happened was in 1973, when then Prime Minister Joop den Uyl held a televised speech about the consequences of the oil crisis.
Ministers would do “whatever it takes” to make sure that businesses don’t go bankrupt and people don’t lose their jobs, Rutte added.
In the Netherlands, 1,413 people have tested positive for the virus. However, that number is most likely much higher, according to the national health agency(RIVM). So far, 24 people have died in the country as a result of the disease.
The Dutch government announced Sunday evening that schools and childcare centers throughout the country would be closed on Monday. Bars, restaurants, sport clubs and brothels were required to close down as well the same evening.