Caution urged about relaxing rules ahead of coronavirus press conference


Prime minister Mark Rutte and health minister Hugo de Jonge will hold a press conference on Tuesday evening to outline the latest steps in the government’s strategy to get coronavirus under control.

The press conference comes amid reports that the more infectious mutation of the virus first identified in Britain now accounts for half of all cases in the Netherlands – although this figure is based on estimates rather than lab research.

Ministers have already confirmed that primary schools and daycare centres can reopen from next Monday, and according to some media outlets such as the NRC, the curfew may also be lifted from the early morning of February 10.

Non-essential shops may also be able to open their doors for order pick-ups, broadcaster NOS said on Monday, but, according to RTL, restaurants and museums will remain shut until the beginning of March.

Regional safety board chiefs have already warned that the cabinet must take a clear decision about whether or not to extend the curfew, which started 10 days ago and prompted several days of riots.

‘You cannot stop the curfew and then bring it back a couple of weeks later,’ safety board chief Hubert Bruls told reporters, after meeting De Jonge and justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus on Monday.


Government health advisors in the Outbreak Management Team have also warned that the current situation in the Netherlands remains ‘extremely worrying’ and a number of OMT members say it is still too soon to relax any of the rules.

Other experts, who are not part of the official panel, also agree. ‘I think it is too early,’ Utrecht epidemiologist Patricia Bruijning told broadcaster NOS.

The ‘British’ variant, she said, is more infectious and given the difficulty of getting the spread of the ‘old’ version of the virus under control, this would not be helped by relaxing the rules now.

‘We are in the middle of a period of uncertainty, and all the countries around us are in the same position,’ she said. Bruijning does support the opening of primary schools, if done with caution.


However, the NRC said, government officials recognise for the social need for some form of relaxation of the rules and future perspective, hence the small steps which will be confirmed on Tuesday evening.

Rutte and De Jonge are also expected to expand on what the following steps are likely to be, when the infection rate comes down further. will live Tweet from the press conference and carry full coverage on the website later.

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