Rutte will not appear with Health Minister at next Covid press conference
Prime Minister Mark Rutte will not be present at the press conference next Tuesday when the Cabinet’s latest position on coronavirus policy will be revealed. Rutte will be attending a debate in the Senate. That means Health Minister Ernst Kuipers will likely be the only Cabinet member to announce any policy changes and take questions from journalists on the issue. Rutte hopes to leave the press conferences in the hands of the health minister on more occasions.
The Cabinet may announce plans to relax more coronavirus restrictions at that press conference, but it is not yet known what this could entail. Numerous consultations will still be held before a final decision is made about the measures.
Rutte said he was cautiously optimistic that measures will be relaxed. "Based on the numbers, you can be a bit more optimistic than a week or two weeks ago. But we have to see how it develops in the coming days." The prime minister refused to go into detail about reopening more sectors or the extent in which restrictions could further loosen up, saying, “It is impossible at the moment to predict whether it concerns large or small steps."
The Cabinet hopes that, thanks to the current vaccination coverage and the risks associated with the Omicron variant of the virus, the coronavirus measures can be gradually phased out. Still, all kinds of setbacks are possible, for example if the number of coronavirus infections increases even faster than in the coming weeks, if the hospitals become full again, or if a new virus variant is introduced. Either scenario could lead to the introduction of new measures.
The press conferences have been a regular occurrence during the pandemic, with the first taking place on March 12, 2020. The most recent press conference on January 25, 2022, was the the first in which Rutte did not lead off the event with his own introductory remarks. Kuipers gave the opening statement during the evening event, followed by Rutte’s remarks, then a question and answer session with reporters.
Rutte said that Kuipers should be front and center with the press conferences in his role as the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport. He said that the routine of regular in-depth questioning on coronavirus has been a difficult routine. A spokesperson for the prime minister said that Rutte wanted to be more flexible with the press conferences, and could conceivably join another one in the future if he deems it necessary.
Reporting by ANP