The lockdown in the Netherlands will partially end from Saturday. Shops, hairdressers and gyms can open again under conditions, but the catering industry and the cultural sector remain locked.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced this at a press conference on Friday evening. ‘We are taking a big step, but it is a responsible risk,’ says Rutte.
Shops are allowed to open again from Saturday until 5 pm. The number of people allowed in is limited and hygiene rules and a mouth cap obligation apply. Hairdressers and other contact professions, such as nail studios and sex workers, are allowed to receive customers again and individual training in the gym is possible again.
Team sports are only allowed outside and until 8 p.m. Universities, colleges and secondary vocational education are allowed to give physical lessons again.
The catering and cultural sector will remain closed until at least 25 January. “I understand very well that it feels completely unfair, but the sum of all contacts in society means that not everything can open at the same time,” Rutte said.
“We looked at the duration of the contact and that is much longer when visiting the catering industry and events in the cultural sector than at the hairdresser or shopping”, Rutte justified the choice which sectors can go back to work from Saturday. Opening museums leads to too many movements, according to the prime minister, which in turn would lead to more infections.
Relaxation of quarantine rules
It was the first corona press conference for Ernst Kuipers, the new Minister of Health. He is the successor of Hugo de Jonge, who is Minister of Housing in the new Dutch cabinet. ‘This virus will not go away’, said Kuipers, ‘we have to learn to live with it’.
The Netherlands has about 200,000 corona infections every week. In order to keep society ‘running’, according to Kuipers, it is necessary that the quarantine rules in the Netherlands are relaxed. ‘Every day there are 30,000 people who have to be quarantined because they have come into contact with an infected person. That adds up to hundreds of thousands of people sitting at home and that can disrupt society.’
Now everyone in the Netherlands with an infected housemate has to stay indoors for ten days, from Saturday people with a crucial profession no longer have to quarantine if a housemate has tested positive. These employees must then be free of complaints, do a daily self-test and after day five a PCR test.
The quarantine obligation expires for people who have had a booster at least a week ago and for people who have recently been infected with the corona virus. With this, the cabinet hopes to prevent too many employees from being stuck at home.
The Dutch government advises to wear a medical mouth mask wherever it is not possible to keep one and a half meters away. Also outside, the use of fabrics and homemade mouth masks is strongly discouraged.
The Netherlands has been in a strict lockdown since December 18, with only essential shops such as supermarkets and pharmacies open.