News ID: 266865
Published: 0339 GMT March 13, 2020

Dutch close museums, ban public gatherings amid virus outbreak

Dutch close museums, ban public gatherings amid virus outbreak

Two of the Netherlands’ premier tourist attractions, the Rijksmuseum national gallery and Van Gogh museum, closed to the public as a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people was imposed in response to the coronavirus epidemic.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte went on live television to explain the rare step, which will also trigger the cancelation of soccer matches, concerts and university lectures across the country of 17 million, Reuters reported.

The country’s 150-member parliament was to debate the measures, but a third were to stay away in light of the public health measures announced by Rutte to minimize the risk of coronavirus infections.

The Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museums, which attract millions of visitors to the Dutch capital every year, shut their doors at the end of Thursday to comply. The Anne Frank House will also be closed to visitors.

The measures will remain in place until March 31.

However, schools, nursery schools and universities will remain open for now, Rutte said, as closing them would do more harm than good.

He said the government’s strategy is aimed at minimizing disruptions to public life while reducing the risks for vulnerable groups.

The heightened precautions came at “a possible turning point” in the coronavirus epidemic in the Netherlands, said Jaap van Dissel, the head of the Dutch Center for Infectious Disease Control.

He said that difficulties in tracing the origin of the virus in cases in the southern province of Noord-Brabant, as well as some in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, made “it necessary to advise additional measures”.

“So we have reached the phase in some parts of the Netherlands, especially in Brabant as has been said, in which we’re tipping” from a containment phase to a mitigation phase, he said.

Elderly people were advised to avoid groups and public transport. Universities were told to hold large classes online when possible, and medical staff were instructed not to travel abroad.



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