Dutch court to rule next week on Covid curfew
Dutch appeals judges said Friday they will rule in a week’s time on whether to overturn a lower court’s order for the government to scrap its coronavirus curfew.
The curfew, in place since January 23, looks set to stay in any case however as the government is pushing through a new law to reinstate it even if it loses the appeal.
The Dutch senate was due to vote on the matter on Friday, although that may now also be postponed until next week.
On Tuesday a lower court judge ordered the government to immediately lift the curfew, saying that such measures could only be used in sudden national emergencies such as a dyke breach.
Government lawyer Reimer Veldhuis told the appeals court on Friday that the curfew was introduced on January 23 to stop a “worrisome” surge of Covid-19 cases due to a new variant first found in Britain.
“Just before the introduction of the curfew, the water splashed against the dyke,” Veldhuis told the appeals court in The Hague.
“To stay in the metaphor, the water level had to go down as quickly as possible to make room for the new wave.”
The case was launched by Covid-sceptic group Virus Truth, which has organised a series of protests via social media against coronavirus restrictions.
the s Truth founder Willem Engel said the appeal process was “theatre”.
“It’s mostly show and spectacle what we have seen the last week,” he told AFP outside court.
“In reality the judge on Tuesday made the right call in her verdict when she said this is not the way you conduct this legislation and the curfew is illegitimate.”
– ‘Dictator of the low countries’ –
Chief appeals judge Marie-Anne Tan-de Sonnaville said the court would hand down its written judgement in one week on February 26.
“We have heard so much that we want to think about it a little longer and feel unable to decide today. We want to try to do it as quickly as possible, but also to do it thoroughly,” the judge said.
Judges have allowed the 9pm to 4:30am curfew, the first in the Netherlands since the Nazi occupation in World War II, to remain in effect pending the outcome.
It appears set to continue anyway, with the lower house of parliament on Thursday backing a new law hastily drawn up by Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government to bring in a curfew by different legislation.
Opposition MPs criticised Rutte over the issue even as they agreed to go along with the law, with one calling him the “dictator of the low countries.’
Rutte is governing as caretaker PM until elections next month after his government resigned in January over a scandal involving childcare payments.
The Dutch government is meanwhile due to decide next week whether to extend the curfew past March 2 along with other measures such as the closure of non-essential shops, bars and restaurants.