Court orders Dutch government to scrap coronavirus curfew

A Dutch court ordered the government on Tuesday to immediately scrap the night-time curfew imposed to help limit the spread of the coronavirus, ruling that it lacks any proper legal basis.

The curfew, the first in the Netherlands since World War Two, sparked several days of riots by anti-lockdown protesters when it was initially introduced on 23 January. The curfew is currently set to be lifted on 3 March.

The government of the Netherlands immediately appealed and asked the court to suspend the order prohibiting the curfew. A hearing was scheduled for later Tuesday. Prime Minister Mark Rutte urged the public to continuing staying home during the 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. curfew hours pending the result of the appeal, saying the curfew “is a means, not an end.”
“It is really very important that we limit our social contacts as much as possible because of the risk of transmission of the virus,” he added. “So please do that. Do it for yourself, but also for each other.”

In a written statement, The Hague District Court called the curfew a “far-reaching violation of the right to freedom of movement and privacy” that also indirectly curtails the rights of freedom of assembly and demonstration.

“This requires a very careful decision-making process,” the court ruled.

A group called Viruuswaarheid, or Virus Truth, that is deeply skeptical of the government’s approach to slowing the spread of the virus had asked the court to outlaw the curfew, which sparked rioting in the first days of its imposition but is widely adhered to by the vast majority of the country. In a video interview tweeted by the group, its leader, Willem Engel thanked the judge who issued the ruling and said, “I’m happy that there is still such a thing as jurisprudence.”

Confirmed virus infections have for weeks been slowly declining in the Netherlands amid a tough lockdown. The 7-day rolling average of daily new cases declined over the past two weeks from 24.27 new cases per 100,000 people on Feb. 1 to 20.36 new cases per 100,000 people on 15 February. The country has seen nearly 15,000 confirmed deaths in the pandemic.

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