A coronavirus Christmas: Uncertainty around Christmas 2020 continues
Speaking at the press conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge announced that some coronavirus measures would be relaxed from midnight on Wednesday, November 18, yet refused to provide any clarity as to what the Christmas holidays would look like this year, and which measures would be in place.
RIVM and OMT advise against large Christmas gatherings
Speaking to NOS, Susan van den Hof from the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) said that, while the number of coronavirus infections seems to be declining across the country, it would not be wise to substantially relax the current measures in place.
“It is always a trade-off between what is feasible and what is desirable,” she told the Dutch broadcaster, “I imagine there could be some relaxation around Christmas and New Years, but from an epidemiological point of view, you should limit that to a few days, and then look at the effect.”
Similarly, while the Dutch government is yet to announce any official measures or advice, the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) have issued advice, asking the public to keep Christmas and New Years celebrations small this year with a maximum of six guests, preferably all from the local region.
“It is expected that people will visit each other during the holidays,” the experts say, “[but] The more people come together, the higher the risk of transmission and the revival of the epidemic.” They ask that, even if the government decides to relax measures for the festive period, people keep the ongoing coronavirus situation in mind and stick to small family gatherings.
Dutch government to announce plans for Christmas in December
At the press conference on Tuesday, Rutte and De Jonge said the government would monitor the coronavirus situation and the number of infections over the coming weeks before making any announcements about Christmas. They plan on announcing their final decision on December 8.
If they do decide to relax some of the existing measures for the Christmas period - for example allowing larger groups to gather or allowing bars and restaurants to open - it would likely be from December 15. But the government remains cautious about relaxing the measures too much and risking a third wave in January 2021.
De Jonge said the Netherlands was currently at phase three (serious), and over the coming weeks is hoping for signs that the country was shifting into phase two (worrying) which means 10 intensive care admissions and 3.600 new infections per day. He said relaxing the measures for Christmas would only be possible if this shift happened over the next three weeks.