Coronavirus press conference: Lockdown extended, some relaxations for schools and shops
At a press conference on February 2, acting Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo De Jonge announced that, while a handful of coronavirus restrictions would lift next week, the lockdown would remain in place until (at least) March 2.
Dutch coronavirus press conference
Rutte said the country was at a tense and unpredictable moment in the pandemic, and said that the cabinet would try to be as open and honest as possible with the general public. He sounded optimistic yet realistic as he said that the number of daily infections was falling, slowly but surely. However, he once again emphasised the severity of the spread of the so-called "British variant" (B117), saying prediction models show that a third wave is inevitable.
Both Rutte and De Jonge brought attention to the fact that the cabinet was following a new roadmap for lifting restrictions in the Netherlands. The next press conference is scheduled for Tuesday, February 23.
Some lockdown restrictions to be lifted next week
As had been expected, Rutte and De Jonge revealed that a few coronavirus restrictions would lift in February:
- Primary schools and daycare centres to reopen (February 8)
- Shops to reopen for click and collect (February 10)
The cabinet has said they are aware of the risks of lifting restrictions. They announced that additional measures will be introduced in schools in order to ensure the safety of students and staff members alike. For example, if a child is infected with COVID-19, the whole class (including the teacher) must go into quarantine for five days (and be tested on the fifth day), and rapid tests will be made easily available for teaching staff.
The government is yet to make a decision about the national curfew which is due to lift at 4.30am on February 10. The government is due to discuss the curfew this week, taking into consideration the spread of B117 and advice from the Outbreak Management Team (OMT), and make a decision by Friday. Mayors have made it clear to the government that, if the curfew is to be lifted, it is not brought back in a few weeks should infections rise again: whatever decision the cabinet makes, it has to be clear-cut and conclusive.
Semi-lockdown extended until March 2
In spite of the fact that the number of infections seems to be falling, the Dutch government has decided to keep a number of coronavirus measures in place for the time being. The following restrictions remain in place until (at least) March 2:
- All bars, restaurants, and cafes are closed (open for take-away)
- Coffee shops are closed (open for take-away until 8pm)
- Sale of alcohol banned after 8pm
- Secondary schools and universities are closed
- Hairdressers and beauty salons are closed
- Museums are closed
- Cinemas are closed
- Zoos are closed
- Theatres are closed
- Casinos are closed
- Theme parks are closed
- Public swimming pools and saunas are closed
- Gyms and other indoor sports facilities are closed
- Libraries are closed (open for pick-up)
- Brothels are closed
- Max. one household guest per day (excl. children under 13)
- When outside, max. group size of two (if not from the same household)
- Stay home, work from home, and limit travel as much as possible
- If you're showing symptoms then stay home
- A ban on all events (excl. demonstrations)
- Do not travel internationally (and don't book any trips before at least mid-March)
- Wear a mask in all indoor public areas and on public transport
Controversial decision to lift restrictions in the Netherlands
News of some relaxations has been trickling through from The Hague for a number of days. While the coronavirus situation in the Netherlands does appear to be improving, a number of experts have been critical of the government’s decision to lift restrictions. Not all members of the OMT felt it was safe to reopen primary schools.
A number of virologists have also voiced concerns about the spread of B117 in the Netherlands, with one telling RTLNieuws: “The concerns about the British variant have not diminished or decreased. We do not see the consequences of that variant now because the current lockdown is working. But the question is, what happens when you lift that lockdown?”. Some experts fear the Netherlands could be heading for the third wave in March.