The Dutch Government has said it will ease its COVID-19 restrictions from Wednesday despite record reported infections, which have come despite the restrictions and the country being 90% vaccinated. The BBC has the story.
Dutch hospitality settings, including bars, restaurants and museums, have been shut since December 18th in a bid to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.
But despite the restrictions, COVID-19 cases have continued to increase, with some 60,000 now recorded per day.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte told a news conference that the country was “taking a risk” in easing the restrictions.
Mr Rutte, who has faced growing calls for a relaxation of restrictions in recent weeks amid falling deaths and admissions to intensive care, added that the new rules will be effective until March 8th.
Cafes, bars and restaurants will be allowed to open until 10pm, though to gain entry patrons will be required to show a negative test result, prove they are vaccinated or have recently recovered from a coronavirus infection.
Nightclubs will remain closed, and capacity at sporting and cultural events will be limited to 1,250 people.
The reopening follows a wave of anger from many hospitality sector employees, who were left disappointed by the government’s decision to allow shops, gyms, hairdressers and sex workers to resume business on January 15th while their sector was kept in lockdown.
Cafes in several cities opened in defiance of the restrictions the weekend before last, and dozens of museums and theatres opened as beauty salons for a day in protest.
Public support for the strict measures has also waned steadily over the past month and large demonstrations against the rules have become more frequent in the capital, Amsterdam.
Mr Rutte alluded to this anger during his news conference, telling reporters that the government was “consciously looking for the limits of what is possible, because of the great tensions and cries for help in recent days”.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Ernst Kuipers warned that the virus is “not the flu”, but said that relaxing the curbs was important.
“Living for longer with restrictive measures harms our health and our society,” he said.
It’s almost as though lockdowns and vaccines don’t prevent the spread of coronavirus.
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