Dutch government pledges new support to virus-hit businesses

Business

A man entering the national library in The Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, passes a sign informing visitors to wear mandatory face masks. Wearing face masks in publicly accessible indoor venues such as libraries, museums became obligatory in the Netherlands on Dec. 1, 2020, when a new temporary law underpinning existing government coronavirus restrictions came into force. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch government on Wednesday beefed up its financial support by 3.7 billion euros ($4.5 billion) for businesses slammed by the country’s partial lockdown measures.

The latest lifeline comes on top of 33.7 billion euros in support the government earlier pledged to protect businesses and jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic, although it warned that further job losses and bankruptcies are inevitable.

The government said businesses with the biggest percentage drop in turnover — such as bars and restaurants — will receive more financial support in the first quarter of 2021.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte ordered all bars and restaurants shuttered in mid-October and they will remain closed throughout the usually busy Christmas and New Year holidays.

The nationwide organization for the hospitality sector has been lobbying unsuccessfully for an end to the closures, arguing that they can open safely with measures to guard against the spread of infections among their patrons.

“It is incomprehensible that the catering industry is still kept closed, while other places where many infections occur — in schools and in work situations — are left completely untouched,” the organization said in a statement Tuesday after Rutte said that there would be no relaxation of the partial lockdown over the holidays.

Meanwhile, a judge in The Hague on Wednesday rejected a summary case brought by Greenpeace that sought to scupper a 3.4 billion euro government rescue package for national carrier KLM unless it attached stricter environmental conditions to the support.

In a tweet, Greenpeace campaigner Maarten de Zeeuw pledged to continue taking action “as long as the government keeps allowing major polluters like @KLM to keep polluting.”

The Dutch public health institute warned Tuesday of a “worrying rise” in confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past week.

The health institute said the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases rose by more than 9,000 to 43,103 in a week. More people were tested in the last week due to a change in the rules for access, but the percentage of positive tests also rose from 11.1% to 11.6%.

In the same week, the number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths dropped from 406 to 338. The nationwide death toll since the pandemic first swept into the Netherlands is approaching 10,000.

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