‘Last party’ for Dutch as new virus lockdown starts

Dutch people drank and danced to pumping techno music Wednesday in the final minutes before all bars, restaurants and cannabis “coffeeshops” closed as part of a partial coronavirus lockdown.

Many of the revellers who flocked to terrace cafes in a main square in The Hague said that they backed the measures, which took effect at 10:00 pm (2000 GMT), but that they wanted to party first.

“It’s the last night before the lockdown, the last time to party. It’s a special night for us,” house painter Simon Karelse, 19, told AFP in Plein, the main nightlife area in The Hague.

Karelse said the new coronavirus rules were “good. It’s also for my grandparents, so it’s important for us. I have trust in the government, they have a vision where to go, and I trust them.”

After months when the Netherlands apparently got away with some of Europe’s laxest regulations, Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Tuesday announced that the country would go into semi-lockdown, its strictest measures since March.

Virus cases hit a record of more than 7,000 on Tuesday, making the Netherlands the country with the third highest infection rate compared to its population, after Belgium and the Czech republic.

In Plein square, one cafe had set up a huge marquee where dozens of people, all closely packed together, jumped up and down to a thumping dance music soundtrack beneath pink lights.

Huge cheers went up as someone shouted out “Ain’t no party like an alcoholic party” over the sound system. (AFP | Danny Kemp)