Health Min.: Netherlands to proceed with lockdown easing this week
The caretaker Cabinet in the Netherlands confirmed on Monday that it will go ahead with relaxing some lockdown restrictions this week. By taking the second step in the country’s six-step plan to exit lockdown, the Netherlands will allow people to participate in more sports indoors and outdoors, and zoos, amusement parks, libraries and sex work locations will reopen from Wednesday.
The prospect of relaxing restrictions in the third step was expected to be announced during a press conference on June 1. That includes reopening restaurants to a limited number of guests indoors, opening more museums and indoor cultural locations, and receiving more guests at home. This could take effect on June 9. "But if the decline is very, very fast, it could be sooner," Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said during a press briefing.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced last week that the second step of lockdown easing would go forward as long as hospital admissions for Covid-19 showed a decrease. The Outbreak Management Team of government advisors said it wanted to see admission figures at least 20 percent lower than during the third wave peak. By Sunday, a 28 percent decrease had been achieved.
“What we are seeing with the data is a good decrease,” De Jonge stated. “It is mainly an effect of vaccination.” He also noted that there are still about 2,200 people with the coronavirus disease in hospitals, and that the healthcare situation is still very busy.
Rules changes starting Wednesday include cafe terraces being allowed to open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. That is an expansion from the hours permitted under step one, which were from noon to 6 p.m.
Fitness centers and indoor swimming pools can once again open their doors to a maximum of 30 people, though gyms have to keep their changing rooms and showers closed. Team sports participation is now permitted for all adults and children, though anyone aged 26 and up must keep a safe social distance of 1.5 meters.
The last of the close contact professionals will be allowed to start working again, including sex workers. Libraries can also open up later in the week.
Music schools, dance schools, and other art centers and studios will also be able to open back up, though lessons can only be given in many cases by one teacher to a maximum of two students. Those under 18 can attend group classes in the arts.
In a most optimistic scenario, the Cabinet had hoped to announce a green light for step two on May 4, with effect on May 12. That decision was postponed by a week as Covid-19 hospitalizations had not sufficiently fallen.
Now that the May vacation period has ended, all eyes will remain on hospital admissions and new coronavirus infections over the coming week to see if these figures rise back up. Testing for the viral infection fell sharply during the May holidays.