THE HAGUE – A Dutch court ordered the government Tuesday to end the curfew it imposed last month to rein in the spread of the coronavirus, saying the ruling coalition was not entitled to use emergency powers to impose the restrictive measure.
However, an appeals court later said the curfew would remain in force at least until a ruling on the government's appeal of the lower court's decision. A hearing is scheduled for Friday.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte urged the public to continuing staying home during the 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. curfew hours pending the result of the appeal, saying the curfew "is a means, not an end.”
“It is really very important that we limit our social contacts as much as possible because of the risk of transmission of the virus," he added. "So please do that. Do it for yourself, but also for each other.”
In a written statement, The Hague District Court called the curfew a “far-reaching violation of the right to freedom of movement and privacy” that also indirectly curtails the rights of freedom of assembly and demonstration.
“This requires a very careful decision-making process,” a single judge at the court ruled in the summary proceeding.
Last week, the government extended the curfew into March by using a law allowing it to bypass the usual legislative process in emergencies. When the curfew was introduced and when it was extended, the government sought and gained support from the majority of lawmakers during two debates in the lower house of Dutch parliament, but it did not submit legislation for a formal vote.
However, the court said the introduction of the curfew was not an emergency requiring the use of the fast-track process as it had been discussed at length during the coronavirus crisis.
A group called Viruuswaarheid, or Virus Truth, that is deeply skeptical of the government's approach to slowing the spread of the virus had asked the court to outlaw the curfew, which sparked rioting in the first days of its imposition but is widely adhered to by the vast majority of the country.
In a video interview tweeted by the group, its leader, Willem Engel thanked the judge who issued the ruling and said, “I'm happy that there is still such a thing as jurisprudence.”
Confirmed virus infections have for weeks been slowly declining in the Netherlands amid a tough lockdown. The 7-day rolling average of daily new cases declined over the past two weeks from 24.27 new cases per 100,000 people on Feb. 1 to 20.36 new cases per 100,000 people on Feb. 15.
The country has reported nearly 15,000 confirmed deaths in the pandemic.