The Dutch cabinet has extended the curfew until March 15. Despite confusion over the measure last week, Rutte and De Jong also announced its extension in tonight’s press conference. There are four areas in which coronavirus restrictions will be relaxed. However, the third wave of the virus has been confirmed.
Yesterday, it was leaked that secondary schools would partially open from Monday, March 1, with students attending in-person classes one and a half days a week. The extension of the curfew was also on the cards, as well as the possibility of opening hairdressers.
There is ever-growing pressure on the Dutch government to relax measures even further. However, the cabinet is worried about the rise of coronavirus infections and the third wave. Tonight, Rutte and De Jonge clarified the governments approach to counter coronavirus in the Netherlands.
Rutte’s message on February 23
Rutte began the press conference by pointing out that this Saturday will mark the one year anniversary of the first coronavirus case in the Netherlands. He then turned his attention to the British variant, which has been the central concern for the Dutch government in recent months.
He pointed out that there are two realities that the Dutch population must come to terms with, number one, the third wave has begun. Infection numbers are slowly climbing once more. “The third wave is inevitable, according to experts, the figures are already rising. That is one reality,” Rutte said.
Reality number two is that these times are becoming increasingly hard for people. “Social, economic and psychological consequences add up. It chafes, it pinches, it squeaks and it creaks,” Rutte said. The government must balance these two realities and so, the Netherlands will see some slight relaxations in coronavirus restrictions.
“We don’t want to go back on opening up the education sector. But if numbers rise hard again all the other restrictions are on the table again”, the decommissioned Prime Minister said.
He also said he wants to make sure that the people of the Netherlands stick by these restrictions, saying: “I want to personally make the deal with Dutch people that they stick extra good to these measures.”
What restrictions will be relaxed?
These further relaxations will be seen in four areas: education, contact professions, retail and sports for young people. However, Rutte warns that these relaxations will be taken away if numbers rise sharply once again. These relaxed measures will be in place mostly from March 3.
After a court ruled that the curfew was unlawful last week, the Dutch government will extend curfew until March 15, the first day of the 3 day elections period. People may be outside after 9PM on this day, as this is when votes are counted.
A press conference will be held again on March 8 to determine whether this measure will be extended further.
More people in secondary school and MBO
On March 1, secondary schools will open up again under the following conditions: students will return to school for a minimum of one day per week, if possible, maybe more. A 1.5-meter distance must always be maintained and students will be subject to frequent testing.
MBO’s will also see some students return to the classroom.
Contact occupations: hairdressers open for business
From March 3, contact professions (except sex workers) will be allowed to open up once again. Rutte said that it was important that these professions open up.
Retail also to reopen
Shops will also be allowed to reopen, as long as they abide by strict restrictions. Customers can book time slots to come into shops, with a maximum of six time slots per hour and two customers per floor.
Customers may book a time slot up to four hours in advance. Customers must also wear a face mask.
Exercise for young adults
From March 3, young adults under the age of 27 will also be allowed to play team sports outside. However, there will still be no amateur competitions allowed.
Slowing down the third wave
With the infection rate slowly rising, the cabinet is moving slowly when it comes to relaxing measures. This is in order to reduce the risk of a third wave. Health Minister De Jong acknowledges this is a long stretch but the easing of measures must be slow and considered.
De Jonge’s closing remarks
De Jonge closed the press conference with some hope, pointing towards the approaching summer. “In the summer so many people must be vaccinated that it can be a beautiful summer, with fewer measures and more of what makes life so beautiful.”
However, he also warned that the country has a long way to go before the coronavirus crisis is over. “We must guard against a ‘we are almost there’ feeling”, the decommissioned health minister said, “because we are not there yet, not even almost.”
Are you surprised by any of these measures? Let us know in the comments below!
Feature Image: Press conference/screenshot