Dutch Cabinet announces primary schools, daycares will reopen Feb. 8
Update: An earlier version of this article stated that both daycare and after school care would reopen, but this was incorrect. Only daycare centers will open back up on Feb. 8.
The ministers of education and social affairs confirmed during a press briefing on Sunday that primary schools, special education organizations, and daycares in the Netherlands will reopen on February 8. To protect against cluster infections of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, extra precautions will be taken, like expanding access to rapid testing for teachers.
The decision to reopen primary schools was “good news for children, parents and teachers,” said Arie Slob, the outgoing Minister of Education. Schools have been closed to nearly all in-person classes for over six weeks, including the annual two-week winter break. The schools and childcare locations were ordered closed with some exceptions as part of the tightened coronavirus lockdown put in place in mid-December.
Even with schools reopening, parents must still work at home as much as possible and avoid going to their workplaces, Social Affairs Minister Wouter Koolmees stated. Failure to do so could lead to a rise in infections and the need to again shut the schools and daycares.
After school care for younger students will remain closed except for students in a vulnerable situation or whose parents work in a critical job. In a statement issued after the briefing, the Cabinet said it was concerned “that opening out-of-school care would lead to extra interpersonal contact and possibly additional infections.”
Secondary schools will also largely remain closed for the time being. This could change as the government reviews more research about the spread of the virus among older students.
The decisions were made during a Sunday meeting between Prime Minister Mark Rutte, several members of the Cabinet, and advisors from the Outbreak Management Team at Rutte’s official residence. While a majority of OMT members were in favor of reopening the schools, some were against the move as it could lead to an increase in hospital patients requiring treatment for Covid-19, broadcaster NOS reported after reviewing an advance copy of the latest OMT advice.
The dissenting members conceded that it was important to put the needs of children into context, and not only focus on the impact it might have on hospital admissions. “It is therefore good to emphasize that the OMT considers it responsible that we take this step,” Slob said.
Koolmees said the Cabinet ministers and OMT members also discussed the curfew, which has been in place for over a week, and other restrictions.
Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge were scheduled to hold a prime time press conference on Tuesday evening. They were expected to present an update on the country’s coronavirus policy, including a revised roadmap to inform the public about how and when social restrictions could be further loosened.