Netherlands fears further riots after tightening health restrictions

At a press conference scheduled for Friday evening, Prime Minister Mark Rutte could announce the closure of bars and restaurants at 5:00 p.m. (1600 GMT), instead of 8:00 p.m. (7:00 p.m. GMT), local media reported.

A strengthening of current measures risks igniting an already tense situation in the Netherlands, the scene of four nights under high tension in various cities since Friday, in particular in Rotterdam and The Hague.

“We keep our ears and eyes open and prepare,” said Gijs van Nimwegen, spokesperson for the Rotterdam police. “We hope that it will remain calm, everywhere in the Netherlands and in Rotterdam”, he added to AFP.

The country reintroduced partial containment last week, with a series of health restrictions affecting the restaurant sector in particular. The government is also planning to ban certain places for the unvaccinated, including bars and restaurants.

For the second year in a row, the fireworks traditionally fired on the occasion of the New Year, which usually cause many injuries, are also banned, to avoid overloading hospitals.

Citizens are called upon not to accommodate more than four people in their homes and to telework. Public demonstrations are prohibited and football matches played behind closed doors.

Clashes

Despite these measures, the Netherlands, which has a population of 17 million, is still registering more than 22,000 new cases per day. The situation prompted the executive to bring the Prime Minister’s press conference forward by one week.

The team of experts (OMT) which has advised the government since the start of the pandemic, however, recommends not to close schools, colleges, high schools and universities, despite an explosion of cases among students.

The UNWTO believes that a new closure of schools, as was the case at the start of the pandemic, would be harmful to the development of children and young people.

The Prime Minister’s last two conferences devoted to the epidemic were marked by clashes between police and protesters outside ministries in The Hague.

Then an anti-restriction demonstration, organized via social networks, quickly slipped on Friday in Rotterdam, where cars were set on fire, police officers stoned and targeted with fireworks by hundreds of hooded young people and hooligans.

A total of 173 people have been arrested across the country since Friday. Two rioters were sentenced to prison for throwing stones at the police.

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