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Larger group sizes for Christmas expected from tonight’s press conference

After a third day in a row of rocketing coronavirus numbers, the Dutch government is reluctant to loosen restrictions too much ahead of the Christmas holidays. Group sizes may be expanded slightly in tonight’s press conference but it seems we can’t hope for much more than that.

In their last press conference, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge explained that if numbers went down enough, they might be able to consider opening things up for Christmas. But with the numbers as they are, a source has confirmed to NU.nl that “maybe the group size will be expanded a bit, that’s all there is to it.”

Rutte explained that if infections had dropped to around 3,000 a day, cabinet would have been able to consider looser restrictions, but just yesterday the RIVM reported 7,134 positive tests. As a result, Rutte has already concluded that the Netherlands will not be opening up for Christmas.

How long will the partial lockdown remain in affect?

As the decline in corona numbers appears to have halted, Rutte and De Jonge will have to consider carefully how to deal with the Christmas holidays. When Minister De Jonge first announced the partial lockdown he expressed that it would likely only last until mid-January.

However, De Jonge has recently said that with the numbers as they are, loosening measures in mid-January is unlikely. “You have to assume that it will really take longer.”

In the meantime, an outline is being planned as to what numbers will equate to removing certain restrictions. This is proving to be quite difficult and there are no concrete decisions on this yet.

Preventing a third wave

Although vaccinations are promised to start in the early months of 2021, suppressing the virus during this time will still be heavily dependant on the public sticking to the measures.

Tonight’s press conference is expected to explain that there is no room for relaxation, and that Christmas must be celebrated with caution in order to not initiate a third wave of the coronavirus in the Netherlands.

In fact, stricter measures for the Christmas period are still a possibility, although if cabinet decides to go with this route, the new measures are only expected to be announced in a later press conference.

Wavering public behaviour

For now, cabinet is urging people to follow the current measures. Ernst Kuipers, the chairman of the National Acute Care Network (LNAZ), noted that the roads are getting busier.

“I am regularly in traffic jams again. That is a sign that we are going back to work or to the shopping streets”, says Kuipers.

He stressed that while hospitals may be coping now, should the trend increase the health system will be under significant strain in around two weeks. For this reason, he believes loosening restrictions now would be unwise, “no matter how much everyone craves it”.

What do you think of the government’s approach to the Christmas holidays? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Feature Image: Volodymyr Hryshchenko/Unsplash

Emily Burger
Emily Burger
Emily grew up in South Africa but has also lived in Egypt, the UK, Canada and now the Netherlands. She first came here for her Bachelors in Arts and Culture at Maastricht University and soon fell in love with the land of canals, clogs and cheese. When she's not daydreaming about sci-fi movies or countries yet to explore, you can find her writing for DutchReview.


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