De Jonge: No new coronavirus measures for now; Lockdown relaxation in talks
With a steep drop off in the number of new coronavirus infections in the Netherlands, and two consecutive weeks where the percentage of people testing positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus has fallen, the Cabinet was not considering any stricter measures that those which were already in place in the country. Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said the government plans to allow public indoor venues like libraries, museums, and movie theaters to reopen as planned next week after their two-week shutdown, and possibly returning the country to the original partial lockdown introduced on October 14.
That means that restaurants, bars and cafes will still remain closed, which De Jonge said will likely continue through mid-December. "What we see is that a sharp decline has started," De Jonge said after a meeting of government officials on Tuesday. "This is important. A decrease in the number of infections, in the number of hospital admissions. A decrease in all regions.”
Because of the national improvements, which also saw the basic reproduction (R-number) of the virus fall below 1.00 for the first time in almost five months, the Cabinet is also exploring how it can further lift social restrictions in the country. He said, "we are looking very carefully at December, what could be possible from which moment. We will make a decision on that next week."
De Jonge also pointed out that while Tuesday's new infection total of just under 4,700 was still "much too high." He continued, "Step-by-step. We must first see how that decline continues. We have to be vigilant, persevere."
Data from the RIVM showed that every region in the country improved last week in terms of new infections per capita, though it singled out Rotterdam-Rijnmond, Twente and Zuid-Holland-Zuid for still having over 350 newly infected residents per 100 thousand. Last week, the government warned that regions with a high coronavirus infection rate may face even more stringent measures, mentioning those three regions in particular.
The stricter measures would amount to a full lockdown, with curfews, further restrictions to retail trade, and the closure of high schools. The government kept a close eye on the infection figures in the hard-hit regions over the past days, and now concluded that they are showing enough improvement that more stringent measures are not needed at this stage.
On Monday, Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security said that despite the fact that the number of new Covid-19 infections is falling, it is too soon to start relaxing measures. He and the Security Council, which consists of the mayors that head the 25 security regions, would not speculate on what Christmas would look like. "In any case, it will not be Christmas or New Year's as we knew them last year," said Hubert Bruls, mayor of Nijmegen and head of the Security Council.