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Rutte: Nightclubs to Remain Closed, Frustration with Covid Rules is Understandable

The Netherlands will continue to keep nightclubs closed because of the coronavirus outbreak, with no expected date when the businesses will be allowed to reopen. At the same time, the country is loosening some rules for quarantining babies and toddlers, but the ban on shouting, singing, and chanting in groups, like at protests, sports events, and live concerts, will also continue with no specified end date.

"We hope that the clubs and discotheques can open again before there is a vaccine, but at the moment that is simply unwise. Too often outbreaks of infection have occurred [at nightclubs] in Europe," Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. "I think it's terrible for them. This sector is important for life in the Netherlands."

In an update to the Dutch public six months after the first coronavirus patient was discovered in the Netherlands, Rutte said he understood the frustration people feel when it comes to the lingering restrictions on society meant to keep the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus from spreading further. "If there is a vaccine, we can get rid of the measures, but that is a dot on the horizon," Rutte said. His Cabinet member, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge, said the research into a vaccine is progressing, and that the Netherlands could receive the first batch of vaccinations in early 2021.

De Jonge also presented a pessimistic possibility, saying, "In the unfortunate case that there is no vaccine, we will have to rely on treatment methods."

For now, Rutte stressed that the measures in place over six months have worked, and will continue to work if people continue to adhere to the developing rules. "In March and April, the hospitals overflowed. Everyone felt the urgency then," Rutte said. "Now the virus is more invisible, and people are fed up with what is not possible. But I want to flip this around: Look at what is possible, because we have adhered to the measures."

He said that what is clear is that new infections have stabilized and begun to slow down again after a spike in infections from July into early August. "The number of hospital admissions is also stable at a level that can be handled. The 'famous' [virus basic reproduction] number was just below 1 again today for the first time in ages," Rutte said. He also noted that the coming weeks will be very tense with vacations ending and schools reopening. "The explosion of the figures abroad must be a warning to us," Rutte added.

Some 126 people were being treated in hospitals for Covid-19 on Tuesday. Despite the relatively low number, De Jonge said it was important that everyone follow the rules instead of setting up a different set of rules based on someone's age or social group. "Young people do not only interact with other young people, but they also visit [their] grandfather and grandmother. That can play a role in spreading the virus.," he said.

"If you look at how people with disabilities are simply concerned because others are not so careful with the measure ,it makes them very seriously feel like they have to be defensive. In this society we are going to fight the virus as one society. "

To control things further, De Jonge said that there will be more testing locations, and that the country has purchased more of the materials needed to perform coronavirus testing. "We are investigating how we can test more quickly and more with innovative methods. Source and contact research must also continue to be carried out," he said.

However, the roll-out of the Coronamelder, an app that tells users if they have been in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus, will be delayed further. The early research into the app in the east of the country has shown that it is most effective when there is expanded testing capacity so everyone can be tested when they get an alert from the app, De Jonge said.

The government said that nursing homes are better prepared to handle possible infections because the staff have access to more personal protective equipment, and they have more experience with recognizing symptoms, placing people in quarantine. "Recent research has shown that symptoms in residents in nursing homes can be difficult to recognize. We will test residents and employees weekly, and care workers will make preventive use of mouth masks," De Jonge said.

The quarantine rules for babies and toddlers up to the age of four will also become the same as those already in place for children between the ages of four and 12. One rule change the government cited as an example is that children under four will not be required to enter the ten-day quarantine when returning from a country where coronavirus is more prevalent. They will be allowed to attend daycare or school, just as children aged four to 12.

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