Covid measures: Cabinet leaning towards 5 p.m. closing times but no decision yet
The Cabinet has an idea of the direction it wants to take to address the weeks of record-breaking coronavirus infections. An official decision will be announced on Friday. Sources close to the Cabinet said that many aspects of the new policy can still change.
What was most likely on Thursday evening is that the Cabinet will follow the advice from the Outbreak Management Team. This called for hospitality businesses, non-essential shops, and cultural institutions to close every day between the hours of 5 p.m. and 5 a.m.
The Cabinet ministers involved in the discussion over coronavirus policy changes met at Catshuis on Thursday. During those consultations, caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge voiced the strongest support for a firm intervention.
It still seems likely that the education sector will remain open, as was advised by the Outbreak Management Team. Members of the OMT were reportedly divided on the issue when preparing their policy memo. It remains unclear if other additional measures are being considered to prevent infections in schools.
On November 13, the Netherlands put in place an 8 p.m. closing time for the hospitality industry and essential shops. Non-essential stores and services, and events were ordered to close at 6 p.m. Cinemas and live theaters avoided new restrictions aside from assigning seats to attendees, and capping attendance at 1,250 in venues.
Despite this effort, average daily coronavirus infections jumped by 66 percent to 22,265 infections diagnosed per day. An average of 331 people with Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals each of the past seven days, 45 of whom were sent to an intensive care unit. The ICU system is struggling with a maximum of 650 spaces for Covid-19 patients, 530 of which are already filled. It could reach capacity in about a week.
Rutte and De Jonge will hold their next press conference to announce any changes on Friday at 7 p.m.
Reporting by ANP.