Dutch PM says curfew needed despite legal order to drop it

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called on the country to respect a night-time curfew, saying it was still needed to fight the pandemic despite a court ruling earlier on Tuesday that the measure lacked a legal basis.

FILE PHOTO: People sit on terraces before they close following the new restrictions announced by the Dutch government, as the Netherlands battle to control the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Amsterdam, Netherlands October 14, 2020. REUTERS/Eva Plevier

Rutte’s coronavirus policy was dealt a major blow when a court said his government had failed to make clear why it was necessary to use emergency powers at this stage of the pandemic. The government said it would appeal against the ruling.

The court said it would rule later on Tuesday whether the curfew should remain in place until the appeal hearing, which would be held as soon as possible.

Rutte maintained that the curfew was needed to prevent a surge of infections due to more contagious new mutations of the virus, and said he would do everything he could to keep it in place.

“It would be very unwise to lift the curfew at this moment,” Rutte told reporters. “We installed it in order to control the coronavirus as much as possible and to make it possible to regain our freedom in a safe way.”

Rutte said his government was working on an emergency law to give the curfew a better legal footing and urged everyone in the Netherlands to limit their social contacts.

The curfew, which allows only those with a pressing need to be outdoors between 9 p.m. and 4:30 a.m., was extended last week until at least March 3.

“The curfew is based on a law for emergency situations, where there is no time for debate with parliament,” the court said.

“There was no such pressing need in this case. Far-reaching measures such as these need to be based on proper laws.”

The curfew, the first in the Netherlands since World War Two, sparked several days of rioting by anti-lockdown protesters when it was introduced on Jan. 23.

It is part of a lockdown in which bars, restaurants and non-essential stores have been closed for months.

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