Pressure mounts on Dutch government to relax coronavirus restrictions
Almost a year since the first coronavirus case was confirmed in the Netherlands, four months since restaurants and bars were forced to close for the second time, and two months since acting Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced a hard lockdown, pressure on the Dutch government to finally relax some coronavirus restrictions is growing.
Dutch support for coronavirus restrictions continues to fade
Earlier this month, the government announced the reopening of primary schools and daycare centres and the opening of shops for click and collect, but also extended all other coronavirus restrictions until (at least) March 2. Regular anti-coronavirus protests and the debate this week about the legal validity of the curfew suggest that, in spite of some relaxations, the general public is anxious for the measures to finally be lifted.
The most recent survey conducted by I&O Research on behalf of NOS has revealed that the number of people in the Netherlands who want the national restrictions to be at least partially relaxed has more than doubled in three weeks, from 21 to 45 percent. 9 percent would like to see all measures abandoned completely.
I&O Research did find that the majority of people still support the restrictions, but support has dwindled slightly over the past few weeks: at the end of January, 75 percent of those surveyed supported the measures compared to 68 percent now. Furthermore, the number of people who feel that restrictions should be further tightened has dropped from 33 percent at the start of the year to only 9 percent now.
Young people are struggling the most, but most people support curfew
Perhaps unsurprisingly, people between the ages of 18 and 24 seem to be the keenest to return to normal, with 56 percent of respondents in this age group stating they felt worse now than they did before the coronavirus crisis - an 8 percent increase since last November. 52 percent of people agree that the first relaxations of restrictions should be geared towards providing young people with more freedom.
While young people seem to be struggling the most, people of all ages have indicated that they are finding it increasingly difficult to stay positive throughout the crisis. However, the survey did reveal general support for the national curfew, as I&O Research found that 81 percent of people supported the measure and 69 percent agreed with the government’s decision to extend the curfew until March 3.
Pressure to reopen schools and lift restrictions
Now that primary schools are open again, secondary schools across the country are asking the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) to revise their advice for the reopening of secondary schools and allow students to return to class at least one day a week from March 1. They propose using different locations to carry out in-person teaching - such as theatres or cinemas - and using rapid tests to prevent the spread of the virus. The cabinet is set to discuss the reopening of secondary schools on February 23.
Herstel NL (“Repair NL”) - a group of doctors, economists, entrepreneurs, scientists, psychiatrists and professors from across the Netherlands - are also pushing the government to “reopen” the country. They have put forward their own plan for easing restrictions, arguing that the risk of the so-called British variant has been exaggerated and that, by protecting the elderly and vulnerable, everything can reopen on March 1.
The government is also looking into ways restrictions can be lifted, and the Ministry of Public Health is working on a coronavirus test certificate that would allow anyone with a negative test to be given more freedom and be allowed into restaurants or cinemas, for example. The plan is that the certificate will be ready by the end of March.