The cabinet plans to allow cafes and bars to open up to 1am from next Friday, and to increase the number of people in theatres and sports stadiums, health minister Ernst Kuipers has told MPs in a briefing.
Locations for up to 500 visitors will no longer have to observe social distancing or to provide fixed seating. Locations with more than 500 people will still have to have seating but guests will no longer have to keep their distance from each other – if infection rates allow it, Kuipers said.
That means stadiums and theatres can fill their seats to maximum capacity again. The coronavirus pass will still be in use but will not be extended to new situations.
Kuipers is briefing MPs on the plans on Thursday evening because parliament needs a week to debate the legal changes to ensure they can come into effect on February 18. MPs have made it clear they want to be fully briefed before the cabinet goes public with what the changes will be.
The cabinet’s optimism is based on the situation in the hospitals. There are now fewer than 200 people on an IC ward and a total of 1,531 Covid patients in hospital, according to Thursday’s figures.
Nevertheless, the number of infections is high, Kuipers said. The figures are a rise of 7% week on week while IC hospitalisations are up 42%. ‘These increases are high in percentage terms but are relatively low in themselves,’ he said. ‘The increase in the number of people confirmed to have coronavirus appear to be levelling off.’
‘The cabinet is stating what the maximum possible is,’ a source told broadcaster NOS. ‘But we will only know definitely what will happen once the OMT has made its recommendations.’
The OMT’s recommendations will be published on Friday, based on the most recent infection and hospital figures. Regional safety board chiefs will also meet to discuss the situation before the cabinet knows it it can press ahead with the plan.
Kuipers will outline what the final decision is on Tuesday at what will be the 39th coronavirus press conference and the first without prime minister Mark Rutte.
Meanwhile, Amsterdam night clubs which have said they will open on Saturday in protest at the continuous closure will face fines if they do so, city officials have said.
The clubs, however, say they will press ahead with their civil disobedience campaign despite the risk of a financial penalty.
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