Dutch Cabinet looking for way out of hard lockdown: report
The Dutch Cabinet is facing growing pressure from entrepreneurs, municipalities, provinces, and society as a whole to relax coronavirus lockdown measures. The involved Ministers are searching for a safe way out of the hard lockdown the country is in, sources around the government told newspaper AD.
Calls to reopen non-essential stores and catering establishments sound from across the country. On Wednesday evening, there were protests in various Dutch cities. Mayors and provincial councils have joined this call. The King's Commissioner in Overijssel wrote a letter to Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Wednesday, asking him to show understanding to desperate entrepreneurs who plan to open their businesses despite the lockdown. Similar calls came from the Provincial Council of Utrecht, head of the Security Council Hubert Bruls, and Security Region Noord- en Oost Gelderland.
"Doing nothing at all about relaxation is not an option," one source from close to the Cabinet said to AD. Another source added: "If there is no relaxation, a whole mess will break out. But what's to come will still be limited." If anything can be relaxed, it will be "in small steps."
The number of Covid-19 infections in the Netherlands is alarmingly high, with over 32,000 positive tests on Wednesday. But on the plus side, the highly-contagious Omicron variant seems to cause milder symptoms than the previously dominant Delta Variant. On Wednesday, Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst said that the Omicron variant "comes close to the flu."
The Outbreak Management Team met on Wednesday to compile new advice on how to proceed for the Cabinet, based on the latest forecasts from public health institute RIVM. Among other things, the team of experts discussed options for opening higher education, contact professions, sports clubs, and catering establishments, according to the newspaper.
The involved Ministers will meet with RIVM director Jaap van Dissel at the Catshuis - the Prime Minister's official residence in The Hague - on Thursday to discuss the OMT advice and decide what the coronavirus restrictions will look like in the coming period. The mayors on the Security Council will be informed on Thursday evening.
The Cabinet will make the final decisions on Friday, followed by a coronavirus press conference.