Netherlands to stop social distancing but expand Covid entry passes from Sept. 25
Physical distancing rules in the Netherlands that call for people to remain 1.5 meters away from each other will be cancelled as of September 25. From that same date, a coronavirus pass frequently generated by the CoronaCheck app will be mandatory for everyone aged 13 and older when visiting catering businesses and cultural venues, including cafés, concert halls and theaters, sources close to the Cabinet confirmed after reports from RTL Nieuws, De Telegraaf and NOS.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge are expected to announce the decisions during a press conference on Tuesday evening. Rutte and members of the Cabinet met on Sunday with pandemic advisors from the Outbreak Management Team to discuss the coronavirus situation in the Netherlands at Catshuis, the prime minister’s official residence.
However, nightclubs and discotheques will not likely be allowed to open. It is expected that Rutte and De Jonge will still enforce rules that hospitality businesses must remain closed from midnight to 6 a.m. daily, according to NOS. The businesses were briefly allowed to open for the first time in months at the start of July, a period which also ushered in a massive amount of new coronavirus infections as the Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus spread rapidly across the country.
It was not known if events and festivals will be permitted to bring back crowds of people with or without the CoronaCheck app. Tens of thousands of people attended protests held in many cities on Saturday calling for more flexibility and support for the events and cultural sectors and the country’s late-night entertainment venues.
Additionally, face masks will remain mandatory on public transportation for the time being. The advice to work from home as much as possible will also continue to apply. The basic measures against the coronavirus, such as washing hands frequently, coughing and sneezing into an elbow and staying home when exhibiting cold or flu symptoms will still remain the norm.
About 11 million people in the Netherlands, 62.4 percent of the entire population, are considered fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to data submitted by the Ministry of Health to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). While that includes about 77.2 percent of all adults in the country, it also means that 6.6 million people are not fully protected against the coronavirus disease including the entire population of people aged 11 and under who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.
The Cabinet wants to do away with most coronavirus rules because of the vaccination rate among adults, NOS reported.
The decisions were made despite the fact that the number of coronavirus infections reported daily in the Netherlands has remained mostly unchanged since the end of July. The daily total ranged between 2,000 and 3,000 on 42 of the 43 days since July 31.
Hospitalizations for Covid-19 are still relatively high compared to before the Delta variant wave, with just under 500 people admitted into care over the past week. Although that is about 12 percent lower than a month ago, it is five-times the number of patients admitted during the last week of June. About 14 people were sent to intensive care with Covid-19 each of the past seven days, compared to 2 people daily at the end of June. At the same time, ICU admissions are also about 18 percent less than in mid-August.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times.