Coronavirus lockdown: curfew extended, secondary schools and hairdressers to open?
With the next coronavirus press conference scheduled for February 23, rumours have started to emerge from The Hague as to what the Netherlands can expect acting Prime Minister Mark Rutte to announce about the coronavirus lockdown.
The Netherlands to ease some coronavirus restrictions
According to sources in The Hague, on Sunday at Rutte’s official residence cabinet ministers and members of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) discussed whether or not any coronavirus restrictions could be eased and which restrictions would be extended. Rumours suggest that, now that the curfew is protected by a new emergency law, the Dutch government is looking to extend it by a further three weeks, and hopes that doing so will allow for other measures to be lifted.
For example, secondary schools will be able to partially reopen on March 1 - the details of this plan are not yet clear, but it could see students attend in-person classes one and a half days a week. Tuesday could also see Rutte announce that shops can reopen for “shopping by appointment,” and that hairdressers can reopen on March 2 with strict health and safety measures in place.
Shops and restaurants feel frustrated about extended lockdown
While hairdressers are exceptionally happy to hopefully return to work, other industries feel frustrated that they are forced to remain closed. Udo Delfgou, director of retail organisation INretail, told NOS that he didn’t understand why shops couldn’t reopen on March 3, but was hopeful that shopping by appointment could provide some relief.
Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN), the largest union representing hospitality businesses in the Netherlands, is also feeling discouraged, with director Dirk Beljaarts voicing his disappointment with the cabinet for not providing any options for restaurants, bars or cafes: “The cabinet has clearly given up all hope."
Recently, the government has faced mounting pressure to relax national coronavirus restrictions, and while Rutte had initially said the curfew would be the first to be lifted, it seems as though the cabinet has instead opted to reopen schools and allow for options for economic activity in the near future. In spite of these relaxations, acting Health Minister Hugo de Jonge is still concerned about coronavirus infections in the Netherlands: “We are on the eve of a third wave, even if we have managed to slow it down."