Dutch curfew to stay as government circumvents court order to drop it

FILE PHOTO: The city of Amsterdam is pictured after appellate judges ruled that a night-time curfew would remain in place in the Netherlands, pending a government appeal of a lower-court ruling that found the measure lacked legal justification, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Netherlands February 16, 2021. REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A night-time curfew to fight the coronavirus looks set to remain in place in the Netherlands as most parties in parliament voiced support on Thursday for an emergency government bill which would circumvent a court order that the measure be dropped.

The district court of The Hague on Tuesday had ruled that the curfew should be scrapped immediately as it lacked sufficient legal basis, leaving authorities to try to draft a new law before an appeals hearing set for Friday.

A majority of parliament expressed support for the new bill, before a vote later on Thursday. The bill will be debated in the Senate on Friday, where approval seems certain as well.

The court order had dealt a blow to Prime Minister Mark Rutte's coronavirus policy, one month before an election dominated by the debate on the country's handling of the health crisis.

The 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. curfew sparked several days of rioting by anti-lockdown protesters when it was introduced on Jan. 23, and has been heavily criticised by Rutte's opponents in parliament in the run-up to the March 17 elections.

But Rutte on Thursday maintained that the measure was necessary to deal with a new wave of infections, which health authorities say is imminent as more contagious mutations of the virus take hold.

"The picture does not look good", Rutte said in the debate on the new bill.

"The curfew at least slows the rate of infections. It is necessary to deal with this health crisis."

Although the curfew is disliked, a majority of Dutch people still support the government's COVID-19 policies, an opinion poll showed on Wednesday.

That support also shows in opinion polls on voters' intentions in the election, which indicate that Rutte's conservative VVD party is set for its biggest win since he became prime minister in 2010.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Gareth Jones)

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