26th Sep 2022

Dutch mayors protest strict lockdown measures

  • Bars, restaurants, museums, and cultural centres have remained closed, while some shops reopened last week (Photo: Mitchel Lensink)
Listen to article

Strict lockdown measures in the Netherlands have pushed a group of 30 mayors to press the national government for a loosening of restrictions.

In an open letter published in De Volkskrant newspaper on Thursday (20 January), they write that a long-term perspective is needed, saying that the national government has supplanted all other problems and interest in society to keep the infection rate low.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"That is acceptable for a short period, but not after two years," they said.

Since December, when the more infectious Omicron variant led to record-high infection rates, the Netherlands has been in a hard lockdown.

Several other countries in Europe have registered a record number of Covid-19 infections, with Germany, France, and Italy reporting almost 800,000 cases on Tuesday.

But restrictions look increasingly ineffective, and with Omicron seeming less deadly, most EU member states have decided to keep large parts of the economy at least partly open.

Not so in the Netherlands, which maintains among the toughest Covid regimes in the world.

This week, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) reported a record number of 42,000 cases.

But the number of Covid patients in hospitals have dropped below 1,200, down from 2,850 in December.

Last week, some stores were allowed to reopen, but bars, restaurants, museums, and cultural centres have remained closed in the Netherlands.

Some museums have reopened as yoga or hairdressers' studios in protest this week.

A leading centre for public debate in Amsterdam has registered itself as a religious community, which are exempt from tough restrictions.

"Municipal lawyers are now working overtime to find out whether a yoga studio in a museum or a hair salon in a theatre should be allowed or banned under national emergency legislation," the mayors wrote.

The signatories include all the mayors of the top 10 biggest cities, including Femke Halsema, the mayor of Amsterdam.

They wrote most of them will continue to enforce cabinet measures but ask the cabinet to provide restaurants, bars, and cultural institutions with a perspective on reopening.

"We don't want to encourage further chaos, nor do we want to worsen the situation by unequally favouring one industry over the other," they said.

But they warned against what they described as a "repressive" governing style that has pitched citizens and leaders against each other.

And they asked the government to make a proportional trade-off between health effects and "people's private lives and the social and economic fabric of society."

WHO: Omicron to infect over half of Europeans in two months

The World Health Organization said Omicron is likely to infect more than half of the population in Europe within the next two months, threatening healthcare systems. It warned that it is too early to consider Covid as an endemic virus.

'No decision expected' for EU decision on unanimous decisions

Swedish minister for European affairs Hans Dahlgren told EUobserver no decision can be expected on majority vote next year. Mikuláš Bek, the Czech minister for European affairs, said enlargement and changes to the decision-making are politically interlinked.

'Cosmetic changes' not enough on EU funds, Hungary warned

Critics point out that Hungary will continue to receive substantial inflows of EU funds since the proposed suspension applies only to around 22 percent of total EU subsidies earmarked for Hungary in the bloc's current budget for 2021-2027.

EU Commission proposes freezing 65% of funds to Hungary

The freezing, the first time in the EU's history using the conditionality mechanism linking EU subsidies to the respect of the rule of law, would suspend money from the bloc's cohesion funds under the 2021-27 long-term budget.


What von der Leyen's 'State of Union' didn't mention

Ursula von der Leyen barely noticed that European democracy is under attack not only from external threats, but from within. Two of the world's leading autocratic countries are EU member states.

News in Brief

  1. More Russians now crossing Finnish land border
  2. Report: EU to propose €584bn energy grid upgrade plan
  3. Morocco snubs Left MEPs probing asylum-seeker deaths
  4. EU urges calm after Putin's nuclear threat
  5. Council of Europe rejects Ukraine 'at gunpoint' referendums
  6. Lithuania raises army alert level after Russia's military call-up
  7. Finland 'closely monitoring' new Russian mobilisation
  8. Flights out of Moscow sell out after Putin mobilisation order

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  5. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling

Latest News

  1. Ireland joins EU hawks on Russia, as outrage spreads
  2. Editor's weekly digest: Plea for support edition
  3. Investors in renewables face uncertainty due to EU profits cap
  4. How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes
  5. 'No big fish left' for further EU sanctions on Russians
  6. Meloni's likely win will not necessarily strengthen Orbán
  7. France latest EU member to step up government spending in 2023
  8. Big Tech now edges out Big Energy in EU lobbying

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us