A coronavirus Christmas: No relaxed measures in the Netherlands
At the press conference on Tuesday, December 8, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge announced no coronavirus measures would be relaxed in the Netherlands over Christmas.
Rutte announced that the current semi-lockdown would stay in place for Christmas. He did, however, state that should the number of intensive care admissions drop to "only" 10 per day then the country should look forward to relaxed measures in mid-January (the figure currently stands at 20).
He also announced that the government was planning trials for the new year in order to examine how life might be able to return to normal while the country is still forced to live with the virus (i.e. spectators at sporting events, larger audiences in theatres).
High number of infections left little room to relax measures
Initially, the Dutch government had hoped that the number of coronavirus infections would have dropped enough by December 8 for some catering establishments to be allowed to open and some other coronavirus measures to be relaxed in time for the holidays.
However, while the number of infections has dropped slightly since October, according to Rutte they have not dropped enough. Therefore, Rutte and his cabinet ministers have decided not to allow restaurants, cafes, or bars to reopen in time for a Christmas rush.
There was also speculation that Rutte and De Jonge might opt to extend school holidays by a week in January to reduce the risk of the virus spreading drastically and quickly in the new year. However, as was widely expected, Rutte decided to leave the holidays untouched - schools will only be closed for the scheduled two weeks.
Maximum group size not extended
One measure that was generally expected to be relaxed was the maximum number of household guests permitted per day. As announced at the press conference on October 13, members of the public were allowed to receive a maximum of three household guests per day (excluding children under the age of 13).
But speaking at the press conference, Rutte said that this would not be possible. Therefore, the rule of a maximum of three guests will also apply throughout the festive period.
Furthermore, Rutte said that, if the number of infections didn't drop in the coming weeks, it was possible another press conference would be held in order to announce new, stricter measures before Christmas.
Stay home and stick to the rules
Rutte implored members of the public to use the holidays as an opportunity to stay home as much as possible and to stick to the rules currently in place. However, he did acknowledge the importance of Christmas this year, saying he "wanted it to be different...had hoped it would be different," but that sadly this was not the case.
He also reminded the public that, as a result of coronavirus in the Netherlands, the country will have almost 10.000 empty chairs at the dinner table this Christmas.