Sources: Cabinet to allow hospitality, cultural sectors to open to 10 p.m.; Events possible
The Cabinet wants to begin reopening the hospitality industry, cultural sector, and a portion of the events sector. The plan is to allow the opening of the hospitality and cultural organizations, provided they close nightly at 10 p.m., with some conditions also expected. Events with fixed seating may also be able to continue again, ANP learned from sources close to the meeting of Cabinet members. This will be discussed with the mayors representing the 25 Security Regions in the country at the Security Council meeting on Monday, and a final decision will be made on Tuesday.
It is still being investigated what the closing time hours will look like for the cultural sector. A system may be implemented where venues are allowed to let people in until 8 p.m., but they have to leave again by 10 p.m. Such a system would not be introduced in the catering industry for practical reasons, the sources said.
Nightclubs, festivals closed; Other events, zoos to open
Nightclubs will remain closed for the time being, too. Festivals and other events without fixed seating will not be allowed to get started again.
A limit of 1,250 visitors will apply for indoor events with mandatory fixed seating. Attendance will be limited to a maximum of one-third of the maximum capacity for outdoor events. Zoos and other locations with a constant flow of foot traffic could also be allowed to open again. People there will have to abide by the same rules as when visiting non-essential service providers.
The Cabinet met to discuss the state of the coronavirus pandemic in the Netherlands, and the possibility of relaxing some restrictions. Sources told Dutch media that the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) advised the Cabinet to let the hospitality and cultural sectors reopen, but with an 8 p.m. closing time, mandatory coronavirus access passes, and a limit on the number of visitors. The cultural sector raised objections to such an evening lockdown, with theaters and cinemas saying that a closing time of 8 p.m. will leave them with little to no time to actually host ticket-holders for an entire event during the work week.
School quarantine guidelines discussion
The ministers involved in the Catshuis meeting also discussed the quarantine rules for primary and secondary education, but it is still unclear what has come from the talks. The current guideline is to quarantine an entire class if there are three or more coronavirus infections. That's resulted in about a quarter of primary school pupils in the Netherlands being in quarantine last week, and large numbers of students are continuing to be sent home.
The directors of the 25 regional branches of the GGD health service called on government officials to send classes of students home less quickly, because the current policy will cause more long-term damage than it will prevent.
On Monday, intensive care physician and acute care advocate Diederik Gommers told BNR that the quarantine rules for schools must be relaxed. The currently dominant Omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads like wildfire through the Netherlands. He said that the current quarantine rules would only result in more and more school classes stuck in quarantine.
Decision to come faster than at other times
The Cabinet will make its decision on the coronavirus rules sooner than usual this week, because the current slate of measures were implemented largely as a precaution. When a decision had to be made about this ten days ago, there was still a great level of uncertainty about the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Among the concerns was the fear that the rapid spread of this variant would lead to a large number of patients requiring treatment in hospitals and intensive care units at the same time. The models used to estimate hospital admissions with the advance of the Omicron variant were too pessimistic, Jaap van Dissel of the RIVM acknowledged last week in Parliament while discussing the latest research.
Sources on Saturday said that the Outbreak Management Team had advised reopening virtually all of society with an 8 p.m. closing time. A day earlier, at his regular weekly press conference following the Council of Ministers meeting, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that he was "moderately optimistic" that relaxing restrictions would be possible. He refused to make any firm guarantees when pressed on the matter.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times.