Netherlands Loosens COVID Restrictions—Bars, Restaurants, Cultural Venues Reopened

“We are taking a big step today to unlock the Netherlands.”

QUICK FACTS:
  • The Dutch government has announced bars, restaurants, museums, theaters, and other venues are to be allowed to re-open, loosening some of the toughest Covid-19 restrictions in Europe, Euronews reports.
  • The Tuesday announcement by Prime Minister Mark Rutte comes as hospitalizations from the country’s Omicron wave have been lower than initially feared, while intensive care admissions dropped by 34%.
  • Health Minister Ernst Kuipers said experts felt the reopening was possible in part because hospitalizations from the country’s Omicron wave have been lower than initially feared, Reuters reports.
  • “We are taking a big step today to unlock the Netherlands while the infections numbers are really going through the roof,” Rutte told a news conference in The Hague.
  • The bars, restaurants, and theatres that have been closed since mid-December will now be allowed to open from 5 am until 10 pm, at reduced capacity and with social distancing rules in place.
  • The public will also be able to attend sporting events, zoos, museums, and attraction parks.
  • However, patrons will still have to show proof of vaccination or recovery from an infection.
WHY THE DUTCH GOVT. IS RELAXING COVID RULES:
  • Pressure from local politicians has pushed Rutte’s government to ease the restrictions, especially after mayors from 30 municipalities petitioned the government last week, according to Euronews.
  • But there have been widespread protests by business owners ranging from the Van Gogh Museum to local cafes.
  • “I can’t explain why here in Breda IKEA is open but the theatre, where people can safely watch a performance, is closed,” said Breda’s mayor Paul Depla, speaking before the announcement.
  • Public support for lockdown measures has waned steadily over the past month, and large protests against them were held in Amsterdam, according to Reuters.
BACKGROUND:
  • For more than a month, bars, restaurants, and cultural venues have been closed, while strict quarantine rules have shut a quarter of primary school classes in the Netherlands, Euronews notes.
  • Despite the country being highly vaccinated, the Dutch national public health institute reported a 51% rise in new coronavirus cases over the last week to more than 366,000.
  • More than three-quarters of the Dutch nation is vaccinated, 70.5% “fully,” according to Google data, while nearly 90% of Dutch adults have been vaccinated, 57% of whom have had a booster shot.
  • Denmark is also relaxing Covid-19 restrictions, its Health Minister saying Covid is no longer a “socially critical disease.”