Netherlands closes bars and restaurants, makes masks mandatory as COVID-19 cases spike

Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the “partial lockdown” on tonight, after the country’s health officials reported a record 7,393 new cases of COVID-19 today.

As the Dutch government tries to control the spread of deadly coronavirus, the new measures, which come into effect tomorrow, will see all bars, restaurants and cafes closed, and the sale of alcohol banned after 8pm. In addition, the wearing of face masks will be mandatory in all indoor spaces.

“It hurts, but it’s the only way,” Rutte said of the new restrictions on Tuesday. “We have to be stricter.”

Unlike many of its European neighbors, the Netherlands has thus far avoided harsh lockdowns.

A total of 43,903 new infections were recorded in the preceding week, along with 150 deaths.  

Rutte’s government has held off on some of the harsher lockdown measures imposed in other European countries since the pandemic began. Masks were only mandatory on public transport, and bars and hospitality venues operated as usual – albeit with some social distancing measures, and contact tracing forms given to customers.

These rules tightened somewhat late last month, with restaurants and bars in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague ordered to close by 10pm, and workers in these cities advised to do their jobs remotely if possible.

The Netherlands has so far recorded nearly 190,000 cases of COVID-19, and more than 6,600 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.