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Dutch government faces growing pressure to lift lockdown restrictions

Dutch government faces growing pressure to lift lockdown restrictions

With data from other European countries suggesting that the Omicron wave does little to increase pressure felt by the healthcare system, the Dutch government is facing growing pressure from all sides to lift the remaining lockdown restrictions and reopen the hospitality and cultural industries. 

Dutch cultural industry protests lockdown rules

To protest the continued closure of museums and theatres, various cultural institutions across the Netherlands opened their doors on Wednesday - not for musical performances or art exhibitions though, but as temporary hairdressers or sports centres. 

In Amsterdam, renowned venues including the Concertgebouw, De Kleine Komedie, the Van Gogh Museum, and Koninklijk Theater Tuschinski opened their doors to the public. While getting a haircut on stage at De Kleine Komedie, customers could enjoy performances by famous Dutch comedians including Youp van ‘t Hek and Claudia de Briej. At Kapsalon Het Concertgebouw, customers received haircuts to the soundtrack of the Concertgebouw Orchestra

Those involved in the protest were warned by mayor Femke Halsema that the restrictions would be enforced: “We understand your disappointment and also the financial need for perspective. At the same time, we are still in a pandemic and the national corona measures apply. The council has to enforce that.” Participating venues in Utrecht, Rotterdam, The Hague and Eindhoven also faced fines and official warnings, while those in Nijmegen had the support of the municipality and mayor Hubert Bruls.

Restaurants in the Netherlands hope to reopen next week

Meanwhile, Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN), the largest union representing hospitality businesses in the Netherlands, has outlined a plan for partially lifting restrictions for bars, cafes, nightclubs, and restaurants, and will present it to the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) on Thursday. 

KHN’s proposal involves gradually allowing the hospitality industry to return to normal, with the first relaxations coming into effect on January 26. The outline suggests reopening businesses under 3G rules from next week, with mandatory seating and refusing entry to new customers after 10pm. 

From February 9, KHN proposes lifting all restrictions on terraces and getting rid of mandatory seating rules for indoor venues, as well as pushing the closing time back to midnight. From February 23, the union hopes only the 3G rules would still be in place, with all remaining restrictions abolished from as early as mid-March.

COVID-19 infection rate falls, relaxations looking likely

Businesses aren’t the only ones calling for change. Mayors across 30 different municipalities, including Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Breda, and The Hague, have demanded the cabinet “fundamentally review” the current COVID-19 policy, and ensure the removal of the current “ad hoc measures,” replacing them instead with “predictable, logical, and reasonable” restrictions.

A recent survey conducted by I&O Research on behalf of NOS found that support for the government’s approach was declining. Amongst the 2.230 people surveyed, 45 percent felt further relaxations could be announced, and 19 percent said all restrictions should be lifted. “This costs way too much, financially, mentally, health,” one respondent said.

The weekly report published by the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) on Tuesday revealed that, while the number of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands was still rising, the number of people being treated in Dutch hospitals continued to fall. Insiders expect Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Ernst Kuipers will therefore announce further relaxations at the next coronavirus press conference on January 25.

Victoria Séveno

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Victoria Séveno

Victoria grew up in Amsterdam, before moving to the UK to study English and Related Literature at the University of York and completing her NCTJ course at the Press Association...

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