Roadmap to reopen The Netherlands unveiled; More economic assistance planned
The NL Times also produced a more detailed look at the five-phase plan to bring the Netherlands out of the "intelligent lockdown".
Prime Minister Mark Rutte laid out a phased plan on Wednesday for the gradual reopening of the Dutch economy in the weeks and the months ahead as the severity of the Covid-19 continues to wane in the country. This plan will require the continued collective cooperation of the country's residents, and for the Dutch government to provide widespread coronavirus testing and more capacity in the country's intensive care units.
At the same time, he said he knew not everyone would be satisfied, as many businesses will need to wait in uncertainty for weeks, if not months. To try and ease this, he hinted at the contents of the next stimulus package to be introduced by the government. “I am well aware that we are also disappointing people today. Not all companies can already open up. Some sectors really have to wait a while. When developing the second economic support package, extra attention will be paid to people in those sectors,” said Rutte.
Addressing the country at a press conference, Rutte announced that the Netherlands is to reopen in five distinct stages, each reintroducing a larger number of sectors into the wider economy.
Beginning May 11, Phase One will see libraries and much of the country's close-contact professions reopening for business, including hairdressers, beauticians, masseuses, dietitians and occupational therapists. This will be followed closely by Stage Two, set to begin on June 1, which will allow people to resume non-contact outdoor sports, bars and restaurants to reopen their terraces, and public transport to revert to its pre-coronavirus schedule on the condition that passengers wear non-medical face masks when travelling.
Stage Three, set to begin on June 15, is expected to see secondary vocational education restart. This is to allow the students in MBO education tracts to take their exams and work on their practical coursework. However, it remains unclear as to when the wider educational system will reopen, with Rutte stating that is government is "looking at the situation and investigations in Iceland and Denmark" as a basis for their decision.
Stage Four and Five, set to commence on July 1 and Sep. 1 respectively, with entail the further easing on restrictions in the Netherlands, with groups of up to 100 people being allowed to visit cinemas, cafes, cultural institutions, restaurants, church services, funerals, weddings, and other organized small events, as well as contact sports and wider swathes of the economy reopening.
Minister of Health Hugo de Jonge added to the Prime Minister's stated measures, pointing out that in order to mitigate the future risks posed by Covid-19 in the Netherlands, testing was going to be made widely available to anybody showing symptoms of the disease.
"Together with hospitals, we are going to scale up ICU capacity flexibly to 1,700," he said. Available capacity was key to keeping the viral spread under control, even if the assumption is that the infection rate will continue to decline. Also crucial, is the protection of those most vulnerable in society, and to help maintain quality of life, informal caregivers will again be allowed to perform their tasks starting Monday.
He added that Dutch people should remain cautious, despite their newfound new freedoms. "The virus is not gone. Protect yourself and therefore each other," warned De Jonge.