Dutch government opts to delay lifting coronavirus lockdown
Last week, it was reported that the government hoped to lift a number of coronavirus restrictions from April 21. However, following a meeting between cabinet ministers and medical experts in The Hague on Sunday, the Dutch government has decided to push back the lifting of the national lockdown until at least April 28.
Dutch coronavirus lockdown likely to last until the end of April
After the lockdown rumours leaked on April 7, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge had been quick to temper the public’s expectations, saying “I cannot anticipate the decisions we are going to make on Tuesday...we will not do stupid things when the end is in sight.” The next government coronavirus press conference is scheduled to take place on Tuesday evening.
It seems as though De Jonge was right to warn against too much optimism. After Prime Minister Mark Rutte and De Jonge met with fellow cabinet ministers and medical experts met on Sunday afternoon, it has been revealed that the Prime Minister will not be announcing any relaxations on Tuesday. April 21 “is just too early,” said a government spokesperson.
Instead, Rutte hopes that the number of coronavirus infections and hospitalisations will fall over the coming week, and that he will be able to relax coronavirus restrictions from April 28. On April 11, almost 8.300 new infections were reported, the highest number since March 27.
Hospitals in the Netherlands pleased with government's decision
After news of the government’s plans leaked last week, hospitals across the Netherlands were quick to voice their concern. Members of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) were also worried about easing restrictions when the number of infections remained high: "At the moment we have high numbers and overcrowded hospitals and purely from the medical side it is still a month too early,” said medical microbiologist Andreas Voss.
Hospitals are working to further increase the number of intensive care (IC) beds available in the Netherlands to 1.550, as Ernst Kuipers, chairman of the National Acute Care Network, said the number of IC admissions had increased “considerably” in the past week. The Dutch Hospitals Association was pleased to hear the latest lockdown news, calling the decision to postpone the lifting of restrictions a sensible one.
Dutch cities once again call on government to reopen terraces
While the catering industry was happy to hear they may be able to reopen their doors, they made sure to control their excitement, as this was not the first time the government had hinted at the imminent reopening of bars and restaurants.
Robèr Willemsen, chairman of the largest union representing hospitality businesses in the Netherlands, Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN), said the decision to postpone the reopening of businesses was not entirely unexpected: “You already felt it coming last week...Terraces do not save the catering industry, and it is therefore not that important financially. It's really mental: we want to get started.”
The latest decision means mayors from the four larges Dutch cities - Amsterdam. Rotterdam, Utrecht, and The Hague - are once again urging the government to reopen terraces and other outdoor spaces, arguing that a “controlled opening of outdoor spaces” would limit the number of infections and prevent “irregular gatherings.” The Director of Amsterdam hospital OLVG has supported the call.