Mayors pleased with Cabinet's plans to relax Covid measures; Press conference tonight
The mayors on the Security Council are happy with the government's plans to relax most coronavirus measures, but call the 1:00 a.m. closing time in the catering industry inconvenient. On Tuesday, the Cabinet will decide whether to implement the expected relaxation of coronavirus rules next weekend. Health Minister Ernst Kuipers will announce the relaxations in a press conference in the evening.
The Security Council, which consists of the 25 mayors that head the Netherlands' security regions, met with Justice Minister Dilan Yesilgöz in Utrecht on Monday evening. "We are delighted with the relaxation and glad that things are now being taken seriously," said Hubert Bruls, Security Council chairman and mayor of Nijmegen, after the consultation. "Everyone is yearning for a life like we were used to," said Yesilgöz.
The mayors unanimously look forward to the Cabinet permitting more. "I could hardly be happier. There is a lot of tension in society," said Jan van Zanen of The Hague. "I hope that everything will be normalized by March and that this will be the end of a dark period," said Maastricht mayor Annemarie Penn-te Strake.
But closing time just after midnight means that people will flock out at that time and clump together in the street, Marianne Schuurmans of Haarlemmermeer expects. Above all, the mayors want businesses to be able to stay open longer. "That would be especially nice for the clubs and night cafes. Although I think 01:00 is quite late for Carnival. The pubs in Den Bosch may close earlier, but we will discuss this locally with the catering industry," said mayor Jack Mikkers of Den Bosch.
The mayors would like to know why the Cabinet chose this closing time. "I can imagine that the closing time is still necessary. This is an intermediate phase. The sooner we go back to normal, the better," said Sybrand Buma of Leeuwarden.
The Cabinet announced last week which measures it wants to relax. It wants to remove the mandatory 1.5 meters apart in theaters, concert halls, and stadiums so that many more people can watch a performance or match. It also wants to extend the opening hours for the catering industry to 1:00 a.m. at the latest and scrap the advice to work from home.
The Outbreak Management Team (OMT) has already considered the proposed relaxations and has no objections, according to insiders. But the exact content of its advice to the Cabinet is not yet known. It is also unclear how the experts view further relaxations that the Cabinet has in store for the coming weeks. In early March, it wants to lift most restrictions.
Kuipers previously said that he asked the OMT whether he could shorten the isolation period after a coronavirus infection because people who get the currently dominant Omicron variant of the virus are ill for shorter. Now, after a positive test, someone has to isolate for at least a week. Due to the high number of infections, this leads to a lot of absenteeism in crucial sectors like healthcare, education, and public transport.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times