Cabinet approves lifting Covid restrictions by Feb. 25, sources say
This story was updated as new information became available.
The Cabinet decided to lift most coronavirus restrictions in the Netherlands by February 25, sources confirmed after various media outlets reported this on Tuesday. The ministers involved in the issue met earlier in the day to make the final decision on which changes to the coronavirus will be announced at the press conference this evening. The Cabinet is "optimistic" about the situation around the coronavirus, Health Minister Ernst Kuipers said after the meeting. "Optimistic against the background of an extremely high number of infections and fortunately relatively low pressure on healthcare."
When asked directly, Kuipers did not want to say exactly what the Cabinet decided during the meeting. Sources told AD and RTL Nieuws that the Cabinet plans to mostly drop the coronavirus access pass on February 25. For indoor events without assigned seating, everyone must get tested before entry if more than 500 people are to attend. No testing will be required for outdoor events
The Cabinet will implement the relaxations in two steps. The first set of relaxations will be announced tonight and take effect on Friday. The catering and cultural sectors will be allowed to stay open until 1:00 a.m. Social distancing and face masks will no longer be necessary for places requiring access passes. Events with more than 500 attendees will no longer be required to have fixed seating.
Additionally, the advice about working from home will be relaxed. Instead of the recommendation people work from home full-time, workers will instead be told they can go to the worksite about half the time if necessary. Additionally, there will no longer be a cap on the number of household guests per day.
The rules for mandatory isolation after a positive test are also being relaxed. Someone infected with the coronavirus will not have to stay at home for seven days, but only for five days. At that point, the infected person can leave isolation if they have not experienced symptoms of Covid-19 for at least 24 hours.
The second step will take effect on February 25 when most other coronavirus rules will disappear. From then, mandatory closing times will no longer be the law of the land, sources said. The Cabinet also wants to scrap social distancing, and coronavirus access passes everywhere except for large events with no fixed seating.
The passes will be adjusted to the 1G policy where everyone is required to get tested for coronavirus regardless of vaccination or recovery status if they want to attend events with more than 500 visitors, or nightclubs. The face mask obligation will also disappear, except for public transport and on commercial airplanes.
Traveling abroad is also set to get easier. From Wednesday, the travel advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will also be adjusted. Coronavirus infection figures will no longer be taken into account when creating a risk profile for different destinations. It means that more countries outside of Europe will go to the lower Code Yellow travel warning level.
Although most of the rules will disappear next week, Carnival will have to be celebrated indoors. Carnival is from February 26 to March 1. The mayors on the Security Council also indicated on Monday that it should be celebrated on a small scale: in bars and on terraces. There will be no major events such as parades.
Kuipers said he would emphasize that some measures remain in force, and it is vital that people comply with them. He referred to wearing a face mask when people sit close to each other, washing hands regularly, and staying home with symptoms. The Outbreak Management Team (OMT) also recommended this in its advice. "Therefore, here is my recurring message, ad nauseam. Stay careful."
For the first time since the pandemic hit the Netherlands in late February 2020, Prime Minister Mark Rutte will not be at the coronavirus press conference on Tuesday. His presence is required at a debate in the Senate. According to RTL Nieuws, the Cabinet expects tonight to be the last coronavirus press conference.
Reporting by ANP