Mr. Rutte continues to reiterate that the Netherlands is a “mature democracy, home to proud adults,” and urges people to adhere to the rules if they want the numbers to go down. But compliance has been spotty, and for now only nine other countries outpace the Netherlands’ 56 globally.
“This has obviously been a colossal political miscalculation,” said Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer, a popular Dutch novelist who lives in Genoa, Italy. “Everybody does as they like and are free to decide themselves. Even positive patients in the Netherlands aren’t ordered to stay indoors. This is absolutely bonkers. In Italy, you’ll be thrown in jail.”
With the virus now raging, opinion polls show that a majority favors reimposing a full lockdown.
But Mr. Rinnooy Kan said that taking charge on that level was difficult for any politician in the Netherlands. “There are so many competing interests vying for attention,” he said, “and there is very little patience for blanket measures.”
Perhaps hubris is a better way to explain the failed policy, said the journalist Addie Schulte, who wrote an opinion article in the leading NRC Handelsblad newspaper, arguing that the governmental disorganization and incompetence laid bare by the pandemic also revealed a blind spot among the Dutch elite.
“Simply put,” he said, “we haven’t been able to manage even the most basic services, and allowed this crisis to get out of hand.”