Dutch government to decide whether schools can reopen on January 10
EDIT: On Monday afternoon, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge and Education Minister Arie Slob announced that primary and secondary schools and after-school care would reopen on January 10, but that higher education would remain closed until (at least) January 14.
The Outbreak Management Team (OMT) is due to publish its advice on Monday, January 3 on whether or not schools should reopen as planned next week, with the Dutch government expected to announce its decision on the matter on Monday afternoon.
Will schools and universities reopen on January 10?
At the press conference on December 18, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge announced that schools in the Netherlands would be closing one week early for the Christmas holidays, in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. At the time, Rutte said the cabinet would re-assess the situation in the new year, and would announce on January 3 when schools would reopen.
While the lockdown is due to remain in place until (at least) January 14, the current rules state that schools, universities, and after-school care would reopen slightly earlier, on January 10. The OMT is meeting this Monday morning to decide whether this decision is wise, or whether schools should remain closed in order to limit the spread of the Omicron variant.
The Dutch government will make its decision once the latest advice from the OMT has been published. The decision is expected to be announced in the afternoon on Monday, January 3, with the next government press conference scheduled to take place next week.
UNICEF argues schools in the Netherlands should reopen
At the end of December, members of the OMT were still undecided on whether opening schools on January 10 would be sensible, acknowledging that, while keeping schools closed could be detrimental to a child’s education and mental health, little was known about the Omicron variant.
"Whether it is responsible to reopen the schools will depend on the expected pressure on the hospitals,” paediatrician and OMT member, Károly Illy, explained to NOS. “If it is even somewhat justified, I argue that schools can open again. But that must be possible in relation to the models from the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM).”
UNICEF Netherlands has already called for schools to reopen as soon as possible, issuing an appeal together with 59 other organisations who feel the closure of schools should no longer be a restriction imposed by the government. “Closing schools harms the well-being of children and young people,” the organisations say. “Minors are made responsible for the health of adults, but the interests of children themselves are forgotten."