Dutch PM Rutte: ban on public gatherings is "intelligent lockdown"

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch government on Monday said it would strengthen an existing ban on public gatherings and extend it until June 1 as the Netherlands grapples with the coronavirus outbreak, in what Prime Minister Mark Rutte termed a “targeted lockdown”.

Previously, gatherings of more than 100 people had been banned through April, though authorities had urged additional “social distancing” measures.

The country’s justice minister said police would now be given the power to break up groups of more than three people who fail to keep a distance in public, unless they are members of the same family.

Fines could range from 400 euros for individuals to 4,000 euros for companies.

Rutte described the new regime as a “targeted lockdown.”

“You couldn’t think up anything else short of a total lockdown,” he said at a press conference. “This is an intelligent lockdown.”

As of Monday afternoon, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Netherlands stood at 4,749, with 213 deaths.

A separate order closing schools and restaurants in the Netherlands until April 6 remains in place, the government said it a statement.

It said it would detail some exemptions and additional rules for funerals, weddings and markets.

Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Chris Reese, William Maclean