Dutch Coronavirus Curfew Shot Down by Court in Blow to Government

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -
Dutch police in Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

The Dutch government’s coronavirus policy was dealt a serious blow on Tuesday when a court ordered it to scrap a controversial nighttime curfew meant to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The court in The Hague said the measure lacked proper legal basis because the government had failed to make clear why it was necessary to use emergency powers at this stage of the pandemic.

Dutch news agency ANP said the government had asked the court to suspend its verdict until an appeal was heard. The court would decide on this request later on Tuesday.

The government had said the curfew was needed to prevent a surge of new infections due to more contagious new mutations of the virus, but the court sided with an anti-lockdown group in finding it an unwarranted limitation of personal freedom.

The curfew, which allows only people with a pressing need to be outdoors between 9 p.m. and 4:30 a.m., was extended last week until at least March 3.

“The curfew is based on a law for emergency situations, where there is no time for debate with parliament,” they said.

“There was no such pressing need in this case. Far-reaching measures such as these need to be based on proper laws.”

The court said the verdict did not automatically mean the curfew would end, as that was for the government to decide. But police would abide by the ruling, the police trade union told ANP, adding that it raised questions over the validity of the almost 15,000 curfew fines handed out in the past two weeks.

The curfew, the first in the Netherlands since World War II, sparked several days of riots by anti-lockdown protesters when it was introduced on Jan. 23.

The case was brought by anti-corona measures action group Viruswaarheid, which earlier suffered a string of court losses.

“We’ll have a party tonight,” Viruswaarheid frontman Willem Engel said on Dutch public radio.

“I’m happy and relieved that justice in the Netherlands still exists.”

The curfew is part of a lockdown in which restaurants and nonessential stores have been closed for months.