Parliamentarians in favor of first lockdown relaxations
Most members of the Tweede Kamer said they were in favor of the planned easing of lockdown measures on April 28. During a Thursday evening debate in which the latest coronavirus policies were discussed, the left wing Labour and Bij1 parties said it was too soon, while the far right opposition party PVV argued for more measures to be released faster.
According to the Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte, ‘enough has changed’ in the Covid-19 hospitalization figures for the government to be able to start relaxing some of the measures. The data had been interpreted broadly; while ICU figures are at a year-long high, and the overall hospital total is at three-month peak, RIVM leader Jaap van Dissel said the agency’s mode showed a plateau in covid-19 hospitalizations this week or next. The Outbreak Management Team (OMT) also warned that it was still too early for reopening, with coronavirus infections still rising.
"We are against the advice of the OMT because we think what we are doing is socially responsible. The OMT wanted to wait until the decline started, but we are going according to the forecast," Rutte said. The Cabinet used that as justification to eliminate the curfew and allow for a reduction of other lockdown restrictions, like allowing cafe terraces to be open from noon to 6 p.m.
"The moment you close the terraces at 6 p.m., people then go to visit each other at home or drink in the parks, perhaps ignoring the 1.5-meter rule. That will not lead to fewer infections, but to more infections," argued Geert Wilders, leader of the PVV.
Parties Labour (PvdA) and Bij1 remained critical and were not in favour of the relaxation of any measures. They explained that hospitals throughout the country were still dealing with an increased influx of patients.
"With 10,000 daily infections, with so many people in the hospitals, I have no other conclusion than that this decision takes irresponsible risks with people's health and adds extra pressure to the healthcare system. I think that is a sad conclusion,” PVdA leader Lilianne Ploumen said.
Rutte also defended his position saying that the vaccination process in the country has picked up steam, despite numerous previous setbacks. That created space to allow for some relaxation to take place, he said.
"At the end of this week, the five millionth vaccination will be used, making us one of the fastest countries in Europe. The GGDs and GPs are doing a great job", he explained.
The first step of a gradual six-step plan to release the country out of lockdown will include the elimination of the curfew, the limited reopening of cafe terraces, more access to non-essential stores, and from April 26 more in-person classroom work for higher education students.