Top Dutch museums close over coronavirus

The silhouette of the Rijksmuseum in March 2019

The Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museums in the Dutch capital Amsterdam said Thursday they were closing until the end of March to help halt the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Several other major tourist draws in the Netherlands including the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, and major art museums in Rotterdam and The Hague, said they were also shutting their doors.

The announcements by the museums, which together attract millions of visitors a year, comes after Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced new rules including a ban on public gatherings of over 100 people.

"In line with national policy regarding the coronavirus, the Rijksmuseum will close its doors to the public until March 31, 2020," said the Rijksmuseum, the national museum of the Netherlands, which is famed for paintings such as Rembrandt's "The Night Watch."

The Van Gogh Museum, home to a huge collection of paintings by the Dutch post-impressionist master Vincent Van Gogh, made a similar announcement, as did the Mauritshuis in The Hague where Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring hangs.

The executive director of the Anne Frank House -- the hiding place of the teenage Jewish diarist who died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1945 -- said earlier Thursday that coronavirus and President Donald Trump's ban on travel from Europe would hit tourism in the Netherlands.

"I feel that it will have a deep impact on not just the Anne Frank House but many many organisations, businesses, museums," executive director Ronald Leopold told AFP.

"It will definitely have an impact on tourism, on Amsterdam, and obviously with 90 percent of our visitors coming from abroad as well."

Leopold added: "Fingers crossed it will go away as soon as possible or that some bright brain will come up with a solution to what is going on here, because I fear it's going from bad to worse right now."

The Dutch upper house on Thursday said it would postpone its two upcoming sessions on March 17 and 24, a statement said.

"With these measures, the Senate wants to contribute to stop the propagation of the virus," it said.

The Netherlands has so far recorded 614 cases and five deaths from the virus.