Much uncertainty about Dutch reopening, says PM; Covid-19 cases could rise in June

Mark Rutte at a press conference on May 8, 2020
Mark Rutte at a press conference on May 8, 2020RVD/Minister-PresidentFacebook

While many questions still remain unclear around exactly how Covid-19 restrictions will be relaxed in the Netherlands, the uncertainty is completely inevitable, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said at a press conference on Friday. While the country is beginning to slowly open back up from Monday, Rutte was far less optimistic about the possibility of restarting major events following September 1.

"We still don't know much about the virus. Maybe they will discover new insights and you might be able to start doing things again at some point, but I am not going to offer false hope now," Rutte said.

Rutte's press conference on Friday took place several days after the government announced its five-step plan for the reopening of the Netherlands, which is set to lift various restrictions over the course of the summer. While the easing of restrictions come as relief to many businesses, there are nevertheless concerns that transmission of Covid-19 will spike as a result.

According to UMC Groningen virologist Bert Niesters, the number of infections will almost certainly rise again, probably from the third week of June. He conceded to AD that, while the government "cannot keep people indoors for a year-and-a-half," the Netherlands is likely to witness a so-called 'second wave' of infections.

"Everything has a risk. More people will come to ICU again and die," Niesters claimed. 

Because of that likelihood of more infections, and an increased strain on the healthcare system, Rutte said the public should expect some uncertainty with regards to the way in which government will handle the crisis from here on out. "Society has grown over 10,000 years since the Batavi [an ancient Germanic tribe], and now that miserable virus means that society needs to make some essential changes in just a few weeks in terms of social behavior in public places," Rutte acquiesced at a press conference.

Rutte reminded the public that details surrounding the reopening, as well as any additional rules, will fall under the purview of the municipalities and security regions themselves, adding that "we have to learn to live with it and deal with it in an adult way."

"But the main rule remains," Rutte emphasized once again, "if you have health complaints, stay at home. And if you're on the street, keep one-and-a-half meters apart."