Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte urged citizens on Tuesday to continue to respect a nighttime curfew intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus despite a court ruling that found it lacked legal foundation.
In a televised press conference called after the Hague Court ordered an end to the curfew, which has been in place since January, Rutte said his government would appeal the ruling and that the measure was needed in any case.
The court order deals a blow to the government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, as it has repeatedly said the measure was needed to prevent a surge of new infections due to more contagious new mutations of the virus.
But the court sided with an anti-lockdown group’s request that it be scrapped, finding that the government had failed to make clear why it was absolutely necessary to use emergency powers at this stage of the pandemic, as the infection rate was already dropping when the measure went into effect.
The curfew, which allows only people with a pressing need to be outdoors between 9 p.m. and 4:30 a.m., was extended last week until at least March 3.
“The curfew is based on a law for emergency situations, where there is no time for debate with parliament,” the court in The Hague said.
“There was no such pressing need in this case. Far-reaching measures such as these need to be based on proper laws.”
The curfew is the first in the Netherlands since the Second World War.
A spokesperson for the Justice Ministry said it would need to study the ruling and declined further comment.
Police trade union NPB said the verdict raised questions, such as over the validity of the almost 15,000 fines handed out to people who had ignored the curfew in the past two weeks.
“But we abide by court rulings,” NPB chair Jan Struijs told news agency ANP. “We can’t ignore it.”
A group called Virus Truth that is deeply skeptical of the government’s approach to slowing the spread of the virus had asked the court to outlaw the curfew, which sparked rioting in the first days of its imposition but is widely adhered to by the vast majority of the country.
The curfew is part of a lockdown in which bars, restaurants and non-essential stores have been closed for months.
The number of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands has stabilized in recent weeks, after a steady decline this year.
The total number of confirmed infections since the start of the pandemic surpassed one million last week, with almost 15,000 registered COVID-19 deaths.
-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 8:45 a.m. ET.
What’s happening across Canada
WATCH | COVID-19 outbreak puts strain on Newfoundland health care:
As of early Tuesday morning, Canada had reported 826,929 cases of COVID-19, with 35,684 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 21,311.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported seven confirmed new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, with all but one of them in the province’s eastern region. Health officials also reported 21 presumptive cases and one hospitalization.
“You see enough cases, you’re gonna see hospitalizations. That is the sad fact of the matter,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald urged people to follow public health guidance and cautioned that she expects “more cases in the days and weeks ahead.”
Health officials have identified more unlinked chains of transmission, she said, meaning that “COVID is among us and we need to be vigilant.” The province is increasing its testing and contact tracing capacity, Fitzgerald said.
Across Atlantic Canada, both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick reported one new case of COVID-19 on Monday. There were no new cases reported in Prince Edward Island.
In Quebec, health officials reported 728 new cases of COVID-19 and 16 additional deaths on Monday. Hospitalizations stood at 804, with 136 COVID-19 patients in the province’s intensive care units.
Students in Toronto, as well as Peel and York Regions, in Ontario were slated to return to in-person learning on Tuesday after a period of remote learning, but winter weather prompted school closures in two of those boards. The province did not provide updated case numbers on Monday because of the Family Day holiday, but is expected to resume its updates Tuesday morning.
Manitoba also did not report updated figures on the holiday Monday.
In Saskatchewan, the province reported 143 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. In neighbouring Alberta, health officials reported 251 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths on Monday.
In British Columbia, there was no update from health officials on the holiday Monday.
Across the North, seven new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Monday in Arviat, a community in Nunavut. There were no new cases reported in the Northwest Territories. In Yukon, a probable case of COVID-19 that was reported last week was confirmed on Monday, health officials said.
WATCH | Reopen Ontario very carefully to avoid another lockdown, expert advises:
Here’s a look at what’s happening across the country:
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:45 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Tuesday morning, more than 109.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 61.4 million of those cases listed as recovered or resolved on a tracking site maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.4 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia’s regulator on Tuesday approved the AstraZeneca vaccine as its second for use against the coronavirus. Pfizer’s product will be available in Australia next week. It will be given in two doses three weeks apart, while AstraZeneca’s will be administered in two doses 12 weeks apart.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the regulator, found the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe and effective. Health Minister Greg Hunt said the AstraZeneca vaccine will prevent serious COVID-19 illness.
Morrison will be vaccinated with the Pfizer product and Hunt with AstraZeneca in a demonstration of confidence in both vaccines.
Australia has procured 53.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and 50 million of those will be manufactured in Australia. The government has also secured 20 million Pfizer vaccines for a population of 26 million.
India has detected four cases of the strain of the virus first identified in South Africa, a top government official said on Tuesday. The country has also detected the strain of the virus first identified in Brazil, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) director general Balram Bhargava said.
In Africa, South Africa plans to share the one million AstraZeneca vaccine doses it received from the Serum Institute of India with other African countries via the African Union, a senior health official said on Tuesday. The country paused the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine this month, after preliminary trial data showed it offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness from the country’s dominant coronavirus variant.
It plans to start inoculating health-care workers with Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine as soon as this week in a research study.
In the Americas, Mexico began the task of vaccinating millions of senior citizens, with dozens of Mexicans aged over 60 years waiting in line for hours because of delays in administering shots.
Colombia will begin vaccinations on Wednesday following the arrival of its first vaccines, which are from Pfizer.
Coronavirus case numbers are stabilizing in parts of the Middle East but the situation remains critical, with more than a dozen countries reporting cases of new variants, the World Health Organization said Monday.
Ahmed al-Mandhari, director of WHO’s eastern Mediterranean region, which comprises most of the Middle East, said in a press briefing from Cairo that at least one of the three new coronavirus variants was reported in the 13 countries in the region. He did not name the countries. All three of the new variants are more contagious, according to WHO.
Al-Mandhari said there are nearly six million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the region and about 140,000 deaths. WHO urged people to continue taking precautionary measures against the virus.
The organization said 6.3 million vaccinations have been administered in 12 countries in the eastern Mediterranean.
“Vaccinations are a turning point in facing the virus but the vaccines alone are not enough,” al-Mandhari said, noting that physical distancing, wearing masks and keeping clean remain the main ways to fight the spread of the virus.
He said as many people as possible should be vaccinated before they come into contact with any of the new variants of the virus.
WATCH | The challenges, criticisms and success of Israel’s record-setting vaccine rollout:
Al-Mandhari said 37,000 coronavirus vaccine doses from the global COVAX initiative will arrive in the Palestinian territories and 94,000 should arrive in Tunisia in the coming weeks. The program seeks to provide vaccines to developing nations.
Al-Mandhari said overall the number of new coronavirus cases in the region has stabilized, despite increases in some Gulf nations and Lebanon.
Lebanon has been one of the hardest-hit countries in the region in recent weeks with hospitals working at near maximum capacity amid a nationwide lockdown. Lebanon began a vaccination campaign Sunday.
A nation of six million people including a million Syrian refugees, Lebanon has confirmed nearly 340,000 cases.
Iran remains the eastern Mediterranean country with the highest number of confirmed cases at about 1.5 million.
In Europe, Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said the coronavirus variant first reported in Britain represents nearly half of analyzed cases in the country during the second week of February.
Heunicke posted on his Twitter account on Tuesday that he understands the growing need to reopen the country, but “we need to follow the plan of gradual steps so that we maintain epidemic control.”
Earlier this month, Danish schools resumed in-class teaching of kids from preschool to the fourth grade amid a steady decrease of COVID-19 infections. Denmark in December extended restrictions that shuttered all shops except food stores and pharmacies and put a ban on public gatherings of more than five people.
A shipment of a COVID-19 vaccine produced in China arrived in Hungary on Tuesday morning, making the country the first in the European Union to receive a Chinese vaccine. A jet carrying 550,000 doses of the vaccine, developed by the Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm, landed in Budapest after flying from Beijing.
The shipment is enough to treat 275,000 people with the two-dose vaccine, head of the Epidemiology Department of the National Public Health Center, Dr. Agnes Galgoczy, said at a press conference.
Hungary expects to receive five million total doses of the Sinopharm vaccine over the next four months. The country has sought to purchase vaccines from countries outside the EU’s common procurement program, claiming that delays in the bloc’s rollout is costing lives.
The Sinopharm vaccine, which the developer says is nearly 80 per cent effective, is already in use in Hungary’s non-EU neighbour Serbia, where around half a million ethnic Hungarians have already received the jab.
Hungary has also agreed to purchase two million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, which hospitals began administering in Budapest last week.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 8:45 a.m. ET