Dutch announce COVID lockdown easing amid record infections

A general view of a largely abandoned Dutch urban center is seen as the country enters its third day of lockdown, in Den Bosch, Netherlands December 21, 2021. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

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  • The Dutch end lockdown since mid-December
  • New cases are at record level, but hospital admissions stable
  • Shops open, but bars and restaurants remain closed

AMSTERDAM, Jan. 14 (Reuters) – Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday announced the reopening of shops, hairdressers and gyms, partially lifting a lockdown despite record numbers of new COVIC-19 cases.

“We are taking a big step and that also means that we are taking a big risk,” Rutte said at a television press conference.

Non-essential shops, hairdressers, beauty parlors and other service providers are allowed to reopen under strict conditions for the first time since mid-December until 5pm local time (1600 GMT).

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Rutte added that the uncertainties meant that bars, restaurants and cultural venues would have to remain closed until at least January 25.

Earlier on Friday, restaurants in a Dutch city reopened and others said they would open on Saturday regardless of the government’s plans as popular support for the month-long lockdown evaporates despite pressure on hospitals and new infections. registers.

“We take a calculated risk because we have to. Lockdowns are very tough for everyone and keeping everything closed is also bad for our health,” said Minister of Health Kuipers.

Rutte’s government ordered the shutdown in mid-December, as a wave of the Delta variant forced the health system to cancel all but the most urgent care and it looked like rising Omicron cases would overwhelm it. read more

RIVM announced a record high of more than 35,000 infections in 24 hours on Friday. The number of infections has continued to rise despite the lockdown banning all public gatherings, reaching a record high of more than 200,000 in the week to January 11.

But hospital admissions fell slightly.

A poll published Friday by Hart van Nederland found that 89% of people were in favor of reopening shops and a majority favoring reopening restaurants and cultural institutions.

More than 86% of Dutch adults have been fully vaccinated and almost 50% have received a booster vaccination in a major campaign during the lockdown.

Restaurants in the southern city of Valkenburg opened on Friday in violation of the rules and with the support of the city’s mayor, and 15 other municipalities said they would follow on Saturday.

Rutte said he sees the actions as one-off protests and has spoken with municipalities after this weekend about enforcing the new rules.

Elementary and secondary schools will reopen on Jan. 10 after a longer-than-planned winter break, but have been plagued by frequent class layoffs due to illness or exposure of teachers or students.

On Friday, the government said universities and vocational schools would also reopen and announced a shorter quarantine period following an exposure and an expansion of mask use.

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Report by Toby Sterling, Bart Meijer and Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Janet Lawrence, Mike Collett-White and Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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