The mayors of the four largest cities have reacted angrily to the announcement that pavement cafés and restaurant terraces will not open until April 28 at the earliest.
The cabinet confirmed in a statement on Sunday that outdoor catering would not restart on April 21, as suggested in a report leaked last week, because of the high number of patients in intensive care.
The mayors said a limited reopening of terraces was urgently needed to ensure the ‘credibility of the coronavirus measures’. They argued licensed outdoor catering was more effective than letting people drink together informally in parks.
They warned that ‘enforcement will be unachievable and local authorities will be unwillingly pitted against their own residents’ if the lockdown was extended deep into the spring.
Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said it was becoming impossible to police outdoor spaces as the days become longer and warmer.
‘People are standing too close together,’ he told NOS Radio 1 Journaal. ‘We can only enforce the rules with water cannon, but that’s an aggressive way to deal with your population. Reasonable enforcement, as we call it, is no longer possible.’
Catering trade organisation Koninklijke Horeca Nederland said the decision was ‘a hard slap in the face for restaurant and café owners. It argued that the sector had already drawn up plans to reopen terraces safely.
Pieter Verhoeve, chair of the KBOV, the network of Orange associations, said the cabinet should look at reopening terraces in time for King’s Day on April 27. ‘King’s Day is a holiday and many people are trying to find a meaningful way to celebrate it,’ he said.
Pressure on hospitals
But there was relief among hospital staff, who were dismayed to hear last week that the government was looking to ease restrictions while nearly three-quarters of intensive care beds are occupied by coronavirus patients.
On Sunday 8,288 more infections were announced, the highest daily number for two weeks, while more than 2,500 people are being treated in hospital for the virus, of whom 788 are in intensive care.
Ad Melkert, chairman of the board of the Dutch hospitals’ association NVZ, said: ‘This is tough for people who had hoped for or counted on restrictions being eased. But they are still badly needed, because it’s all hands on deck in our hospitals.
‘First we need to get the virus under control, get more people vaccinated and reduce the pressure on hospitals. Then we can slowly but surely start returning to normal, but I think it’s going to take another few weeks.’
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