Reactions to Christmas coronavirus measures in the Netherlands
On Tuesday evening, around 5,5 million people tuned in to watch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge’s press conference, in which they announced that no coronavirus measures would be relaxed over Christmas.
On the whole, this decision didn't come as much of a surprise, as the number of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands remains high. However, there were some that had hoped for some good news on December 8.
Dutch catering industry to remain closed until January
Business owners have become increasingly frustrated with the enforced closure of the catering industry, but were left hoping for some good news after a document from the Ministry of Economic Affairs leaked on Tuesday afternoon. The document stated that, based on figures from the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM), the catering industry actually only had a very limited impact on the national r-number.
The document also said that opening catering establishments for Christmas could be safe: “Reopening the controlled environment of the eateries and restaurants will significantly reduce unsafe home visits. By means of strict conditions and protocols, reopening eateries will not have a negative effect on the r-value.”
However, speaking at the press conference, Rutte said he was not in favour of opening restaurants, and so catering establishments will remain closed until (at least) mid-January. Robèr Willemsen, chairman of the union representing hospitality businesses in the Netherlands, Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN), told AD that Rutte’s decision made no sense: “We have to get around the table as quickly as possible, so we can reopen as soon as possible."
Rutte could not offer any definite answer on when the catering industry would be up and running again, but he did state that steps would be taken to offer more support for the sectors that have been most affected by the outbreak of coronavirus in the Netherlands. At a press conference on Monday morning, it was revealed that the government has put aside 3,7 billion euros for financial support.
Many experts support Rutte’s coronavirus measures
While many may be upset, confused, or surprised that the Dutch government opted not to relax any measures for the holidays, others support Rutte’s decision wholeheartedly. Anja Schreijer, member of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) and chairman of the National Consultation on Infectious Disease Control, called it a “sensible” move, saying: “there is simply no room for relaxation.”
Aura Timen, head of the National Coordination of Infectious Disease Control, also feels that the coronavirus measures currently in place should be enough to curb the spread of the virus and hold off a third wave. But she did say that the effectiveness of the measures fully depends on the behaviour of the public and whether or not they adhere to the rules: “The only way out of this crisis is to show desirable behaviour. There are no miracle cures. If necessary, we will see whether the further tightening of the measures is needed, but that is not an issue at the moment.”
More information on the Netherlands’ vaccination strategy
Another topic that was addressed at Tuesday’s press conference was the government’s vaccination strategy. De Jonge had previously stated that he hoped and planned to start vaccinating people in the Netherlands in the first week of January.
On Tuesday he said the first people to receive the vaccine will be nursing home staff, followed by nursing home residents and people who work in disabled and home care. Employees in the healthcare sector will receive the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, while nursing home residents will receive the Moderna vaccine.
The government also announced that the Netherlands is expected to receive 507.000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine at the beginning of January (once the vaccine has been approved by the European Medical Agency). A further 1,7 million doses will follow in the first quarter of 2021. The Netherlands is also expected to receive 390.000 doses of the Moderna vaccine in Q1 of next year.