Mayors, sectors delighted with Cabinet's plan for lifting Covid restrictions
Health Minster Ernst Kuipers' announcement that the Cabinet will lift most coronavirus restrictions by February 25 was primarily met with delight. The mayors on the Security Council are happy that there will be more freedom in time for Carnival. Travel agencies are glad about restrictions around travel being lifted. And the events and cultural sectors are happy to open fully again. Though events worry about testing everyone before entry, NS and public transport organization OV-NL aren't happy that face masks are still mandatory in public transport.
Carnival starts on February 26, and then the last coronavirus measures have already been lifted, said Security Council chairman Hubert Bruls, mayor of Nijmegen. "We have been very concerned about enforcement in bars full of Carnival people."
According to Bruls, Carnival can be celebrated on the street and in bars. Tents may also be set up for parties. Parades have been canceled everywhere after the coronavirus measures suddenly became much stricter at the end of last year. Builders expected that they would not have time to build their floats even with later relaxation.
The mayors advise against massive carnival tourism to well-known cities because of the large crowds. "But we are not as afraid of a huge coronavirus outbreak like happened years ago after Carnival. Most people have been vaccinated and have had booster shots, and many people have also had corona. In addition, the new variant makes you much less sick," said Bruls.
The relaxation of coronavirus measures is good news for the vast majority of the catering industry. Only the night-time catering industry is neglected again," said chairman Rober Willemsen of hospitality association KHN. "The Cabinet thinks they will reopen nightclubs and discos, but testing for access creates a significant barrier," he said. He points out that many people decide to go out on a whim, and then it is impossible to get tested beforehand. "So there will still be many illegal parties." He also questions the limit of 500 guests before access passes are required. "Why was 500 chosen and not 1,000 or 1,500?"
The corporate event industry is pleased that there is now clarity for trade fairs and conferences, said director Riemer Rijpkema of sector organization EventPlatform. The 1G access policy, whereby everyone must test negative before entering, does not apply to trade fairs and conferences. And from February 25, the limit of 1,250 attendees for trade fairs, events, and festivals, will disappear. "These relaxations offer many more options."
The trade association for travel agencies ANVR is happy that travel-related restrictions will relax. "After almost two years, Dutch holidaymakers and business travelers can finally convert their dreams about long-distance travel into book-and-go," the organization said.
The ANVR is less happy that travelers still have to test negative for Covid-19 when returning from a trip to a country outside the European Union. "We are happy with these first steps of easing towards the rest of the world and hope that many more countries will follow, but a damper on the joy of travel is the mandatory test when returning to the Netherlands. This obstacle, also for business travelers, is not used by our neighboring countries. Why by the Netherlands?" said ANVR chairman Frank Oostdam. "We hope we can quickly put this testing obligation behind us now that the world is at our feet."
TivoliVredenburg and Paradiso are happy with the announced relaxations. Still, they do not understand why they must use the 1G access policy. "Firstly, we are happy because we are allowed to do more again. Especially our dance evenings can be restored. We are delighted with that. That is a huge gain," said a spokeswoman for TivoloVredenburg in Utrecht. She called it "quite arbitrary" that locations with more than 500 visitors have to do pre-testing, but not below that. "In a bar, you can hop shoulder to shoulder, but with us, in well-ventilated rooms, you have to test beforehand. That feels arbitrary. I hope that measure can be removed as soon as possible."
A spokesperson for Paradiso in Amsterdam said that the pop temple does not believe in the efficacy of the 1G access policy. "We are happy to be back, and we are going to do that. It is just a shame that the random capacity of 500 is used with the 1G system. We do not believe that 1G is workable."
Trade unions FNV and CNV are happy that the Cabinet relaxed the work from home advice to working up to half the week in the office. According to CNV, most people prefer hybrid work. "The best of both worlds," said CNV chairman Piet Fortuin. FNV points out that half of the working population mainly worked from home in the past two years. "Usually to the satisfaction of both parties," said chairman Tuur Elzinga. "So give employees direction and control over where they work."
Reporting by ANP and NL Times