Bars, restaurants could stay open until 1 a.m. in Cabinet proposal; Full stadiums, theaters: Report
The Cabinet is considering a proposal to allow all hospitality businesses to remain open until 1 a.m. starting on February 18. People in locations that can accommodate up to 500 people will not be required to spread out at a safe social distance, and will not have to remain in an assigned seat, NOS reported. Details of the plan are in a letter Health Minister Ernst Kuipers plans to send to the Tweede Kamer, the broadcaster said.
If the plan moves forward, more places could also be allowed to grant admission to full capacity. Locations which require a coronavirus access pass for entry, such as cinemas, theaters, and stadiums could potentially let in the maximum number of people normally allowed to attend events. Assigned seating would still be required in locations where more than 500 people are allowed to enter, but they will not have to keep 1.5 meters away from each other, NOS reported. Once approved, plans will likely be announced by Kuipers at a press conference on Tuesday.
The proposal is not final, and the plan could be scrapped if coronavirus infections rise beyond the record levels where they currently sit. Additionally, hospitalization figures will be taken into consideration. The broadcaster said the Cabinet was optimistic, in part because of a decline in the number of hospital admissions.
Earlier this week, the number of average daily Covid-19 hospitalizations reached a five-week high of 195, including about 15 intensive care admissions. At the same time, Thursday marked the first day in 15 weeks that fewer than 200 patients with the disease were in an intensive care unit. Another 1,315 others were being treated in a regular care ward, also near a five-week peak.
Consultations by the Outbreak Management Team scheduled for Friday will be a critical piece of the puzzle to determine if coronavirus restrictions can be relaxed next week, and to what extent. "The Cabinet is indicating the maximum that can be done," a source told NOS. "But only after advice from the OMT is it certain whether it can and will happen."
Kuipers took over the role of health minister in January. So far, he has said that the Cabinet’s new strategy with coronavirus policy is one in which keeping society open takes priority. He is also implanting a new way of working by notifying the Tweede Kamer about possible policy changes first on Friday, before the Cabinet makes a final decision about them. He also led the last press conference about coronavirus policy, instead of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who spoke after Kuipers. The health minister will be the only Cabinet member attending the press conference on coronavirus policy this Tuesday.
Sources also told ANP on Thursday that the Cabinet was hoping to eliminate most remaining coronavirus restrictions at the early in March. This could be announced at a press conference on March 8.