Friday 05 March 2021

Ministers, experts wrestle with Christmas wishes, how many can come to dinner?

Piles of chairs from a cafe terrace in Amsterdam. Photo:

Ministers are currently discussing the options for the Christmas break and whether or not restaurants can reopen temporarily remains one of the major sticking points, Dutch papers said on Friday morning.

The government’s Outbreak Management Team will make its recommendations to the cabinet on Monday, ahead of Tuesday’s press conference update and amid mounting pressure from the hospitality industry to reopen.

In particular, officials are currently looking at the likely impact of opening restaurants for a few days on the infection rate. Unlike cafes and bars, they are not thought to have been a major cause of infection in the past.

However, epidemiologists are opposed to allowing cafes and bars to reopen, even for a short period. ‘It would be risky,’ OMT member Marion Koopmans told broadcaster NOS.

‘We will look at the public health institute analyses carefully but I don’t think we have much room to move. It would be a shame if we laid the basis for a third wave in December, just as the prospect of more testing and vaccinations are in sight.’

Dinner guests

Officials are also considering expanding the maximum number of guests from three to six during the Christmas break and allowing more youngsters to visit the cinema.

Extending the school holidays is also on the cards. Over 50 schools – 25 secondary and 28 primary – were closed for a period in November because of coronavirus outbreaks.

Meanwhile, dozens of Catholic churches have also cancelled their traditional midnight mass celebrations, because of fears that more than 30 people will show up, Trouw said on Friday.

Some churches are, however, planning online events instead.

Road map

According to the Telegraaf, ministers are also working on a tougher road map to combat the spread of coronavirus because the current plans are ‘no longer relevant’.

The current road map dates from October 13 and contains five levels, ranging from ‘alert’ to ‘lockdown’ and is based on infection rates exceeding certain values.

The new plan will include more variation in testing strategy and vaccination rates and will also show how the Netherlands will move towards a more normal society, the paper said.

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