Netherlands eases blockade of COVID-19

Amsterdam — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the reopening of stores, hairdressers and gyms on Friday, partially lifting the blockade.

“We are taking a big step, which also means we are taking great risks,” Rutte said at a television press conference.

Non-required stores, hairdressers, hairdressers and other service providers will be allowed to reopen under harsh conditions until 5 pm local time for the first time since mid-December.

Rutte added that due to uncertainty, bars, restaurants and cultural facilities must remain closed until at least January 25th.

At the beginning of Friday, a restaurant in a Dutch city reopened, others said it would open on Saturday regardless of government plans.

“We take a calculated risk because we have to do it. Blocking is very difficult for everyone, and keeping everything closed is bad for our health,” Ernst said. Health Minister Kaipers said.

Amsterdam shoppers
Shoppers will be seen along Kalverstraat in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on January 15, 2021. (Invert Elzinga / ANP / AFP via Getty Images)

Rutte’s government ordered a blockade in mid-December. The wave of Delta variants caused the medical system to cancel everything except the most urgent care, and the increase in Omicron cases seemed to overwhelm it.

On Friday, the National Institute for Public Health and Public Health (RIVM) announced record highs for over 35,000 infectious diseases in 24 hours. Despite the blockade banning all public rallies, infections continue to increase, with more than 200,000 records in the week leading up to January 11.

However, hospitalization has decreased slightly.

A Hart van Nederland poll released Friday found that 89% of people supported the reopening of stores, and the majority also supported the reopening of restaurants and cultural institutions.

Over 86% of Dutch adults have been fully vaccinated and nearly 50% have received booster shots in major campaigns during the blockade.

In the southern city of Falkenburg, the restaurant was opened on Friday with the help of the mayor, contrary to the rules, and 15 other municipalities said they would follow Saturday.

Rutte said he saw the action as a one-off protest and had talked with city officials about enforcing new rules after this weekend.

Elementary and junior high schools reopened on January 10 after a longer winter break than planned, but have been plagued by frequent class dismissals due to illness and exposure of teachers and students.

On Friday, the government announced that universities and vocational schools would also reopen and announce a shorter quarantine period after exposure and expansion of mask use.