The number of new infections is rising at an alarming pace, Rutte declared, as the protesters outside his office in The Hague made as much noise as they could using whistles, pots, pans, shouts and screams.
But their protests were in vain. The Netherlands is entering a full lockdown for the next five weeks. ‘The less social contact you have, the better’, Rutte summarized. ‘We have to do everything we can. We have to swallow this very bitter pill before things can start to get any better.’
So the schools will close their doors again, and higher education will have to follow suit. The vast majority of teaching was happening online anyway, but in some cases more offline activities were being offered, particularly in the case of first-year students. They were allowed to come to campus once a week, for example.
But not any more. Distance learning will become the norm again. Only ‘practical teaching’ can still be provided on campus, because there are certain skills that you simply cannot learn remotely.
The Cabinet is also making an exception for exams, which can also be held on campus. Obviously, students and invigilators will need to stay 1.5 metres away from one another at all times, and stay at home if they are unwell.
An exception has also been made for vulnerable students. The Cabinet has not provided a precise definition of this group, but it applies to students who do not have a suitable place to study at home and students with a disability who find it difficult to study at home.
Libraries will be closed, but you will be able to pick up books. The same will probably apply to university libraries.
The cabinet has no choice but to put these strict new measures in place, believes Rutte. ‘About 60 people are dying from the coronavirus every day. In this second wave, more people are ending up in hospital than during the first wave.’
But things will get better, the Prime Minister promised. 2021 will be a year of hope, he said, in which people will be able to get vaccinated.