Dutch coalition talks halted after positive coronavirus test

Dutch coalition talks halted after positive coronavirus
test 1

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) – Preliminary discussions to map out the contours of the next Dutch governing coalition ground to a halt Thursday after one of the two officials leading the talks tested positive for the coronavirus.

The government information service said that meetings planned for Thursday in the Netherlands were canceled following the positive test result for Kajsa Ollongren, who is also caretaker interior minister and deputy prime minister in the outgoing coalition.

Ollongren is the second member of Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Cabinet to test positive this week, following state secretary for economic affairs and climate Mona Keijzer. Rutte, who oversaw a Cabinet meeting on Friday, has tested negative.

The coalition talks are expected to take weeks or months. Rutte’s conservative VVD party won the most seats in an election last week for the lower house of parliament but will need to enlist other parties to gain a majority in the 150-seat legislature.

Two coalition “scouts” had been scheduled to meet Thursday with Rutte and Sigrid Kaag, leader of the centrist D66 party that finished second in the election.

The government information service said officials are looking into “how and when the talks can resume.”

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Rutte has attempted to inject urgency into the talks amid rising infection rates despite a tough nationwide lockdown in the Netherlands, where more than 16,500 people are confirmed to have died of COVID-19.

The government information service also said Thursday that although Cabinet meetings can be held in person with social distancing, they will as a precaution be held digitally.

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