Dutch ease tough Covid restrictions, but bars remain closed – Expat Guide to the Netherlands
The Netherlands will ease some of Europe’s toughest Covid restrictions after hospitalizations fell despite an increase in cases of Omicron variants, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday.
Shops, gyms, hairdressers, sex workers and sports clubs will be allowed to do business until 5 p.m. every day from Saturday, nearly a month after they closed over the Christmas period and of New Year.
But bars, restaurants, cafes and cultural venues will however remain closed until at least January 25, Rutte told the first press conference since a new government was sworn in earlier this week.
Rutte said the relaxation was an “exciting time” for the Netherlands, which has been under what the government calls a lockdown since restrictions were tightened on December 19.
Higher education can also reopen. Schools reopened on January 10.
New health minister Ernst Kuipers said the government had decided to start reopening society, with Covid hospital admissions falling despite infections hitting a record 35,521 new cases a day on Friday.
The number of hospitalized patients fell to its lowest level in more than two months on Friday, at 1,289, including 335 in intensive care, Dutch media said.
But Rutte said it was too early to open bars and other eating establishments, warning that new cases could soon reach 75,000 or 80,000 a day when things start to reopen.
“What we’re doing now, very simply, is looking at the intensity and duration of contact – and of course that’s different for stores than for catering, in a theater or in a venue,” Rutte said. .
“So we had to make that choice. If you did all this now, the number of infections would really increase too much.
The Dutch government will decide on January 25 whether or not to reopen the restaurant sector, Rutte said, acknowledging that there had been “pressure from all sides” to do so sooner.
Several Dutch cities said they would not stop hard-hit cafes and restaurants from reopening during the day this Saturday as a one-day exception in defiance of government rules, but would crack down again afterwards .
The severe Dutch restrictions caused tension, with riots in major cities in November.