THE HAGUE (Reuters) – The Dutch Senate on Friday backed emergency legislation by the government to maintain a night-time coronavirus curfew after a court earlier in the week ruled that the measure lacked legal justification.
Passed in a vote of 45-13, it ensures that one of the government’s key strategies to contain the virus will remain in place after being shot down by a district court on Tuesday.
Senators, who do not usually work evenings, were reminded to make sure they had curfew waivers for their trip home because the vote was taking place nearly an hour after people were no longer allowed outside.
Earlier this week a lower court sided with anti-lockdown group “Virus Waarheid” or “Virus Truth” that the 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. curfew, which triggered street protests when it was imposed on Jan. 23, lacked the correct legal basis and ordered it scrapped.
An appeal ruling in that case will be issued in The Hague next Friday.
In response to the legal setback, the government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte rushed the bill to the lower house of parliament on Thursday, arguing that the curfew was an essential element in containing the coronavirus. It passed with a majority.
Protesters and political opponents say the curfew, the Netherlands’ first since World War Two, is a unnecessary restriction on freedoms.
The dispute has raged ahead of elections next month. Opinion polls show opposition to lockdown measures increasing, although Rutte and his conservative VVD Party are favoured to win the March 15-17 elections.
At the appeals court hearing on Friday, government lawyers cited experts from the country’s National Institute for Health (RIVM) as saying a third wave of coronavirus cases is underway due to the more infectious variant first discovered in the United Kingdom, which is now causing most Dutch infections.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling and Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Alison Williams, Frances Kerry and Richard Chang)