The Dutch government tightened some of the looser European coronavirus rules on Monday after an increase in the number of cases, ordering bars to close early and recommending people wear masks in stores.Prime Minister Mark Rutte told a press conference that the situation in the country’s three largest cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, had become “serious” and needed urgent action.
“We are doing our best, but the virus is doing better,” Coronavirus Minister Hugo de Jonge said, adding that nearly 3,000 new infections were being recorded per day, with the figure expected to rise to 5,000 within a few weeks.
The Netherlands has so far avoided the harsh measures introduced by its European neighbors, preferring a so-called ‘smart lockdown’ and refusing to order the wearing of masks.
But people were now advised to wear masks when shopping in the three major cities, with retailers allowed to deny entry to those who did not, Rutte said.
However, Rutte said the masks – which are already mandatory on public transport – “wouldn’t do the trick” and had not worked alone in France or Spain.
Restaurants and bars must now close at 10 p.m. (2000 GMT), when people can only have four people over 13 to visit, Rutte said.
Sports matches will be played behind closed doors again, including top-level football from the Eredivisie, which had just started its new season with a limited number of spectators.
Rutte had recently warned fans to “keep your mouth shut” after many defied the singing ban.
Working from home should become the norm again, said de Jonge.