Ministers meet to discuss relaxing coronavirus rules amid soaring cases


Ministers and health experts are meeting at the prime minister’s official residence on Monday morning to decide what the next steps in dealing with the pandemic should be, ahead of Tuesday’s press conference.

On Saturday the NRC said the government’s coronavirus advisory group, the Outbreak Management Team, is recommending opening cafes, bars, restaurants and the cultural sector again, albeit with limited opening hours.

While the OMT suggests closing cafes and theatres at 8pm, cabinet sources told broadcaster NOS that ministers are looking at allowing the cultural sector to open longer, because of the difficulties of staging shows with an early closing time.

The further relaxation of the rules, if confirmed, would come at a time when the number of new infections is soaring and the regional health boards are struggling to cope with processing the numbers.

On Sunday, 65,393 new infections were reported to the public health institute RIVM in the 24 hours to 10am, but thousands of other cases have not been processed.

The backlog of cases, the RIVM said, had gone up to 48,000 over six days.


Both the hospitality industry and the cultural sector staged protests about being closed last week, and a number of local mayors have called on the government to ‘fundamentally rethink’ its coronavirus strategy.

Junior culture minister Gunay Uslu said before the Friday cabinet meeting that cultural institutions should open as quickly as possible. ‘They have been closed for too long and that has to change,’ she said.

In parliament on Thursday, prime minister Mark Rutte said the government ‘is hoping for a relaxation in the rules but can’t give any guarantees’ until it has data on the effects of opening shops, contact professions and gyms on Saturday 15 January.

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