Cafe terraces unlikely to reopen on March 31; No in-person university lectures: Reports
With the number of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands worsening, particularly over the past three days, the caretaker Cabinet will likely abandon plans to loosen up lockdown restrictions before the Easter holiday. Previously, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said there was a possibility that cafe terraces could be allowed to reopen at the end of the month, and that higher education students might be able to physically attend classes at least one day per week.
Since the last prime time press conference the two held on March 8, just before the election, the situation in the Netherlands has deteriorated making it difficult to relax any lockdown restrictions, anonymous sources close to the Cabinet told broadcasters NOS and RTL Nieuws, as well as the ANP newswire. Aside from the terraces and classes for university and upper vocational students, the two said earlier in the month that it could be possible for more daycare and after school care locations to open, and for more opportunities to accommodate shopping customers inside stores.
Those plans are also to be pulled from the table. Instead, the curfew will be extended for an additional period of time, but no new restrictions will be put in place, the news outlets reported. The decisions discussed today at a meeting between members of the caretaker Cabinet and the Outbreak Management Team of pandemic advisors were not finalized. Any policy changes will be announced at the next press conference on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
On March 8, the seven-day average for new daily coronavirus infections stood at 4,540. It has since risen by over 40 percent to 6,377, with three straight days of over seven thousand infections reported from Friday through Sunday. Hospitalizations for Covid-19 have also been on the rise, though the percentage of people scheduling their own coronavirus test has held at about eight percent.
One possible bright spot is that millions more Covid-19 vaccine doses are expected to be administered through the end of May, with a primary focus on the people whose health is most vulnerable. That will increase the likelihood of relaxing lockdown restrictions before the summer.
Over the weekend, virologists and OMT members Marion Koopmans and Menno de Jong have been vocal opponents to loosening up any restrictions across the Netherlands with the reproductive spread of the virus increasing and the numbers of people testing positive shooting up. Koopmans said that, “We really must be patient, and we can hardly afford any relaxation.”