AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Netherlands’ King Willem-Alexander and his wife cut short a vacation to Greece on Friday after coming under criticism for travelling during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We see the reactions by people to reports in the media,” Willem-Alexander and his wife Queen Maxima said in a statement published by the Royal House late on Friday.
“We wish to leave no doubt that it’s necessary to follow the guidelines in order to get the COVID-19 virus under control. The discussion over our vacation is not contributing to that.”
Though the king’s vacation in Greece did not break any of the Netherlands’ lockdown rules, including new restrictions introduced this week amid one of Europe’s biggest coronavirus outbreaks, the government has discouraged unnecessary travel.
“This is unwise and incomprehensible,” the ANP news agency quoted lawmaker Joost Sneller of the D-66 party, one of the coalition partners in Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s governing coalition, as saying of the King’s vacation.
Rutte had urged the nation in an televised address on Tuesday “not to test the boundaries of the rules.”
“You can go on vacation, but then go to the place where you’ve booked your cottage or hotel room and don’t move around,” the prime minister said. “If you do go abroad — well your options are limited as there are few countries that want to have us anymore.”
Willem-Alexander, who has a private villa in southern Greece, travelled by government jet, ANP reported.
The Netherlands reported nearly 8,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday, a record.
Willem-Alexander and his wife Queen Maxima issued an apology after a previous vacation to Greece, in August, after a photo was published showing them breaking social distancing guidelines on the island of Milos.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Toby Chopra and Chizu Nomiyama)