Dutch gov’t to relax more lockdown restrictions on May 18 if infections fall: Report
The caretaker Cabinet of the Netherlands will press forward with the next step of their plan to reduce lockdown restrictions in the country from May 18 if the average number of daily coronavirus infections shows signs of falling. A final decision on this and any new advice regarding international travel will be announced by Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge at a press conference on Tuesday, broadcaster RTL Nieuws reported after a meeting with government officials and healthcare advisors wrapped up.
When undertaken, the next set of rules changes should include allowing open-air locations such zoos and amusement parks to welcome guests again, expanded outdoor sports activities, and whether the current restrictions in the arts and culture sector are still necessary. The use of indoor sports facilities was also on the table, as well as wider access to attend professional sports contests, and the opening of rehearsal facilities and workshop spaces for the arts and cultural sectors
The meeting between the outgoing Cabinet ministers and the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) at the Catshuis, the Prime's Minister official residence, began at 2 p.m. Sunday. Initially, the second phase of the six-step plan was to be discussed a week ago, but the meeting was postponed as Covid-19 hospitalization figures and daily coronavirus infection numbers were both too high to move ahead with easing the lockdown restrictions. On Tuesday, the OMT said that the government should wait with loosening restrictions until hospital admissions fall by 20 percent.
Hospitalizations for the coronavirus disease have dropped by about 12 percent over the past week. The seven-day moving average for new infections stood at 7,584 on Sunday, a weekly increase of 13 percent, though that figure is artificially higher than it should be as the GGD and RIVM caught back up after several IT errors caused a temporary absence of infection data.
Aside from the lockdown restrictions, they also discussed the negative travel advisory expiring on May 15, and new advice pertaining to the summer holidays, but no formal decisions were made, RTL Nieuws and NOS reported. Many pundits anticipate that some of the Code Orange travel warnings to different regions will be reduced, giving tacit permission for travel. However, it was expected that the advice would remain that people should not travel abroad if it can be helped. A decision on this could be taken at a European level.
Already, it is not required to quarantine in the Netherlands when returning from a trip to the Greek islands of Lesbos, Rhodes and Samos, and the Spanish islands of Cabrera, Formentera, Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca. A negative coronavirus test must be presented before travel from there to the Netherlands, but not from the Azores or mainland Portugal. A return from there also does not require a quarantine.
The first step of the plan was introduced on April 28 after which cafe terraces opened, the curfew was eliminated and non-essential stores were able to welcome customers without an appointment again. Higher education facilities were also allowed to welcome students back in a limited capacity.
On Thursday the GGD announced that the sixth millionth coronavirus vaccine had been administered. The Netherlands currently comes in ninth in the EU when it comes to Covid-19 vaccinations. As of Friday, around one third of the adult population in the Netherlands received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
The Cabinet will hold a press conference on Tuesday during which there will also probably be more information on traveling options after May 15. On that day, the global negative travel advice will no longer be valid.