Reactions to Dutch government’s relaxation of coronavirus measures

Reactions to Dutch government’s relaxation of coronavirus measures

At the press conference on February 23, the Dutch government confirmed the various rumours that had been circulating since Monday, announcing that the national curfew and lockdown were to be extended, but that there would be some relaxations for schools and specific industries. 

Approximately 6,3 million people tuned in to hear the latest updates. This is how businesses, industries and experts have reacted to the news.

Dutch PM says easing restrictions at this stage is “risky”

With secondary schools reopening and hairdressers, beauticians, masseuses, tattoo artists and driving instructors returning to work, many across the Netherlands may be heaving a sigh of relief: the country is finally on its way out of lockdown. 

But Rutte was clear in his speech, repeatedly reminding the public that “we are still in an incredibly difficult phase.” He called these relaxations “risks,” but said they were necessary because “we are getting fed up.” 

Medical experts are confused: “it’s a political decision”

The Dutch lockdown has been in place for over two months now, and yet very little progress had been made in regards to the number of coronavirus infections and deaths in the Netherlands. Various health experts are therefore critical of the government’s decision to announce further relaxations. 

Aura Timen, head of the National Coordination for Infectious Disease Control National Institute for Health and Environment at the RIVM, has called the Rutte’s move a “political decision,” saying the recent increase in weekly infections “points to a third wave.” A number of epidemiologists across the country agree with Timen’s assessment, with Amrish Baidjoe saying it’s clear the easing is “politically motivated.” 

Diederik Gommers, chairman of the Dutch Association for Intensive Care, told De Telegraaf that, while he and his colleagues also feel the relaxations are necessary, he is concerned about another rise in the number of hospitalisations.

Universities across the Netherlands are frustrated

The relaxations will see a lot of workers in contact professions finally return to work next month. Tattoo artists and driving instructors across the country are relieved, and tattoo shops and hairdressers have already seen customers snap up all available appointments. However, the decision to allow hairdressers to reopen when Dutch universities have been provided with no chance to ease any measures has been met with some confusion and frustration. 

Maarten van Dorp, president of student union ASVA, doesn’t understand why primary and secondary schools have reopened while universities remain closed: “Apparently hairdressers are considered more important than a whole generation of students." Leader of the GroenLinks political party, Jesse Klaver, is also confused by the decision: "You can have your nails done, but a student is not allowed to study in the university library.”

Universities also note the emotional and mental strain that is placed on students by being forced to work from home: “There are many who no longer like it. We notice this, for example, in the great demand that is made on our student psychologists,” says Geert ten Dam, chairman of the Executive Board of the University of Amsterdam.

Large shops feel shopping by appointment is too restrictive

The last two press conferences have also seen relaxations announced for shops in the Netherlands. But strict rules apply to the latest relaxation: while shoppers can once again go into their favourite stores, they’ll have to make an appointment at least four hours in advance, and will only be allowed inside for a maximum of 10 minutes. Plus, shops will only be able to allow two customers per floor of their store.

Dutch retail giant Hema is happy to see the government announce shopping by appointment, but is disappointed by the strict regulations: “If this is it, two people every ten minutes, then that is of no use to us,” said a spokesperson for the company. 

The Dutch Retail Council RND (Raad Nederlandse Detailhandel) is also less than pleased by the decision: “The measure will not provide relief for the vast majority of stores in the Netherlands," it says.

Victoria Séveno


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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BrianJohnson2 12:58 | 28 February 2021

As a American who is in a serious relationship with a Dutch woman it is highly frustrating to not be able to travel and have authorization to enter the Netherlands even with a negative test result. I feel it's discrimination to individuals who simply want to move forward with their own life together and is being controlled by the government outside of just a health and safety concern. What right does Mark Rutte have to restrict the life I'm attempting to achieve with my love and her children as long as I'm not a spreading carrier of co-vid and I am able to provide the documentation to show that fact. Exemptions for diplomats athletes and other celebrities are discrimination to individuals who are not and I am appalled by how any humanitarian of ethics and class is able to stand for such action of degradation. You denying safe individuals access to the respect of their own life with the people who they love is nothing shot of military and political control of the situation completely with the lack of a threat. It's Gestapo like and shameful. If myself or others had a positive test I would understand, but you are Targeting individuals who are not coming here with the virus and have paperwork to prove that. SHAMEFUL is what your dictatorship implemented is. You are more than anything a selfish individual who is in your own world not the world of those you lead for their interests too. If you were still would be allowing people like myself in the country who are not infected living in the same place and road of building a lifetime together with the person they are going to marry and raise children with.