A Dutch appeals court has suspended a ruling by a lower court which ordered the government to lift a nationwide Covid-19 curfew.
The case was launched by the Viruswaarheid (Virus Truth) group, which has led a series of protests against coronavirus measures in the Netherlands.
A lower court earlier ruled in favour of the activist group, but the government launched an appeal, which will be heard on Friday.
In the meantime, judges convened an urgent hearing tonight to determine whether the earlier court decision should be enforced ahead of Friday’s appeals hearing.
Judges ruled in favour of the state.
The court wanted to prevent a “yo-yo effect”, one judge said.
“If we as the court don’t grant a suspension, the curfew will be off,” the judge said.
“What happens then if there is a decision in the main case to re-inforce the curfew?” the judge said, referring to Friday’s hearing.
“In this case, the State’s interests weigh more than that of Virus Truth’s,” the judge said, suspending the earlier court decision.
The curfew, which allows only people with a pressing need to be outdoors between 9pm and 4.30am, was extended last week until at least 3 March.
Earlier, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called on the country to respect the night-time curfew, saying it was still needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Rutte’s coronavirus policy was dealt a major blow when the lower court said his government had failed to make clear why it was necessary to use emergency powers at this stage of the pandemic.
Mr Rutte maintained that the curfew was needed to prevent a surge in infections due to more contagious new mutations of the virus.
“It would be very unwise to lift the curfew at this moment,” Mr Rutte told reporters.
“We installed it in order to control the coronavirus as much as possible and to make it possible to regain our freedom in a safe way.”
The first curfew in the Netherlands since World War II sparked several days of rioting by anti-lockdown protesters when it was introduced on 23 January.
It is part of a lockdown in which bars, restaurants and non-essential shops have been closed for months.
Dutch public health institute RIVM said all coronavirus measures including the curfew had helped limit the spread of the disease, despite the arrival of a more contagious variant first discovered in Britain.
Over two thirds of new cases in the Netherlands are of that variant, the RIVM said, and those patients on average all infect more than one other person.
Infections remained roughly stable in the week through today, the RIVM said, but fewer people were willing to take a test due to the cold weather.