Rutte: Lockdown relaxation start could move to mid-May
Prime Minister Mark Rutte hinted on Friday that the planned relaxation of coronavirus measures might not begin until May 13, more than two weeks later than hoped. When he unveiled his six-step plan to exit lockdown at a press conference earlier this week, Rutte said that April 28 would be the potential start date if the number of new coronavirus infections and Covid-19 hospital admissions allows.
Step one in the plan includes the reopening of cafe terraces and more shops, allowing two visitors per household per day, and the elimination of the curfew. It should end by early July when all adult residents have had the opportunity to receive at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine. Speaking before a meeting of Cabinet members on Friday, Rutte repeated to reporters that the dates provided in the five-step plan were provisional and could be revised at any time. He said the same during the press conference and in Parliament this week.
"If April 28 is not possible, it will be 3 or 6 May. Otherwise, the next date will be 13 May", Rutte explained on Friday. He emphasized that for the government to be able to go through reopening as planned, a clear downward trend in the number of new infections must be noticeable. He confirmed the government will continue to evaluate the numbers as planned but not willing to predict whether the reopening will actually take place as planned.
"That’s like predicting the weather, I'm not going to do that.", he concluded.
There are currently 160,000 people contagious with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection, Rutte said. "That is almost as many as during the first wave. Really a lot.", he said. Additionally, there are still about 800 people diagnosed with Covid-19 currently in intensive care units throughout the country, putting the ICU system under severe strain.
"I want to make sure that if you or I have a car accident or a heart attack, which I hope not, we can get an ICU spot too," Rutte said.