Dutch parliament backs night-time curfew plan to curb COVID-19 spread

People walk on an empty street as Netherlands has gone into lockdown as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Amsterdam, Netherlands December 15 2020, REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Netherlands will impose its first night-time curfew since World War II from Saturday onwards in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19 after a majority of lawmakers supported the emergency measure during a debate on Thursday.

During the debate, a compromise proposal to have the curfew start at 21:00 (20:00 GMT), half an hour later than Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government had originally planned, was supported by parties representing a majority.

The curfew will allow only people with pressing needs to leave their homes between 9:00 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. local time and is expected to last until at least Feb. 9.

Exceptions include medical emergencies, people who need to be outdoors to carry out essential jobs and walking of pets on a leash. Violators can be fined 95 euros ($115).

Schools and non-essential shops in the Netherlands have already been shut since mid-December, following the closure of bars and restaurants two months earlier.

Infections in the Netherlands have decreased steadily in the past three weeks, but health authorities say new variants of the novel coronavirus will lead to a fresh surge of cases by next month if social distancing measures are not tightened.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Gareth Jones and Bernadette Baum)

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