De Jonge: Dutch partial lockdown likely to continue past mid-January
The current social restrictions in the Netherlands, including the ban on restaurants, bars and cafes from serving customers directly, will likely continue beyond January 15, said Health Minister Hugo de Jonge after a debate in Parliament. He noted that the decrease in new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infections slowed dramatically last week, potentially stalling plans to open up parts of the country sooner.
"You must assume that it will really take longer than mid-January," he said, according to Nu.nl. "You could now say that the braking distance will simply be longer."
Last week, De Jonge said during a Nov. 17 press conference that he wanted to see new infections fall to about 1,200 per day as a sign that the country was ready for more relaxed restrictions. On that date there were approximately 4,320 infections reported by the RIVM, the Dutch public health institute. Over the past seven days, an average of 5,289 new infections were reported daily.
He also threw shade on optimism that there might be some room to loosen restrictions so that small groups of family members or friends could gather to celebrate the Christmas and New Year's holidays without violating the Cabinet's rules. "It does not look good," De Jonge said, adding that it has become impossible to say with any certainty what rules could be dropped before the normally festive period.
De Jonge said he was considering tightening up some rules, but not yet a repeat of the enhanced measures which expired less than a week ago. One idea being given consideration was keeping schools closed for a longer period during the Christmas holidays.
"We have seen that this worked during the autumn holidays," he said, but pointed out that it was not discussed at the Cabinet level. "You have to keep schools closed for longer if you really have no other option."
He pleaded with the public to comply with the existing coronavirus measures as a way of more quickly reducing the number of new infections and ultimately getting rid of the partial lockdown. "We were well on our way and thought we were in control. But if we want to spend Christmas together, we will have to do everything we can."