A necessary evil or restriction of freedom

Each night from 9 pm to 4:30 am, the Groningen Central Station should be empty. A nationwide curfew is put into force to combat the coronapandemic. Photo: Denise Jans/Unsplash

The most controversial current debate in the Netherlands is the curfew introduced by the Dutch government introduced late January. In the student city of Groningen, students hold various opinions on the measure meant to bring the coronavirus under control.

Niall Torris, a student at the University of Groningen, thinks the curfew is implemented to stop events such as house parties to take place. But he is unsure of the effect it will have.

“Instead of leaving at three, they’re leaving at five [in the morning],” he says.

From 9pm to 4.30am, no one is allowed on the streets. This has caused several riots throughout the Netherlands. A riot was even planned in Groningen, but in the end, only a demonstration against the measures took place.  

Torris understands the frustration of people who riot against the curfew.

“But I’m not really sure what throwing a rock or a snowball at the police will do to get rid of a deadly virus,” he says.

If the communication between politicians and the population was better, and the reasons for implementing a curfew were less vague, some of the unrest could have been avoided, he argues.

“It will solve a problem, but not the problem”

Niall Torris

He also thinks it is unfortunate that the curfew ignores nuances in why people are out in the evening. There is a difference between taking a walk alone after a long workday and meeting up with a group of friends, he believes. It may solve a problem of virus transmissions between strangers. But it will not solve the problem called the corona pandemic.

Since the new restrictions were implemented, Torris has rarely left the house. But during a snowy evening after the curfew entered into force, he tagged along to a snowball fight with other people from his neighborhood.

Torris says he does not wish to excuse the snowball fight. But he also does not think it can be compared to a house party, in which people stay close to each other inside. After all, the participants all kept a two-meter distance from each other, and the whole seance lasted a few minutes.  

When “Maria” first heard the Netherlands would introduce a curfew, she thought it was “kind of about time”.  She does not want her name published to avoid any trouble with her home country, and so we have called her Maria.

She is an international student from Thailand, which implemented a curfew already in March 2020. Maria herself lived in Groningen at that time. But due to political unrest in Thailand, restrictions of personal freedom such as curfews were often introduced when she grew up.

Maria usually opposes restrictions to personal freedom. But because the Dutch curfew is implemented to combat a global pandemic, she thinks it is needed to save lives.

“If things get better, then that’s fine with me,” she says.

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