It will be mid July before everyone over the age of 18 who wants to be vaccinated against coronavirus has had their first shot, because of problems with the delivery of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, health minister Hugo de Jonge told reporters on Friday evening.
De Jonge had set the beginning of July as a target but now says that in a worst case scenario, it will be mid July because only one million of the three million J&J vaccines are likely to be delivered. But that date, he said, assumes that 85% of the adult population will be vaccinated.
According to health ministry estimates, nine million doses of vaccine have now been given and 14 million people are eligible.
Despite the setback, by the end of June, the Netherlands will further relax the coronavirus rules, combining steps four and five in the government’s strategy to open up the country again, De Jonge said.
This means that events such as Lowlands can take place, as long as festival goers have a negative coronavirus test. And from July, the 1.5 metre social distancing rule can be relaxed at events with a negative test entry requirement, De Jonge said, adding that ‘the testing for entry is needed at the moment, but we will stop it as soon as we can.’
However, the social distancing rules and ban on large groups will remain in force in June, and that will impact on the way the European football championships are experienced, prime minister Mark Rutte said.
For example, cafes will not be able to rent in big screens to watch the game and there will be no outdoor screenings either, Rutte said. ‘It is good news that we can do what we can, so let us be sensible [about the football],’ Rutte said.
The changes the government is introducing from June 5 – step three in the plan to open up the economy again – involves allowing museums and cinemas to open to a limited number of visitors and allowing cafes and restaurants to serve guests up to 10pm, indoors as well as outside.
‘We are moving from “closed unless” to “open unless,” Rutte said.
Sports schools and gyms can also offer lessons indoors again, as long as the 1.5 metre rule is observed. Team sports can also resume, although only the under 18s will be able to take part in competitions.
‘Step three is really an end to the lockdown’ Rutte said. ‘It is a great thing to be able to leave it behind.’
However, people who are fully vaccinated should still keep to the social distancing rules and wear a face mask in shops and indoor spaces, De Jonge said.
And home working is still the order of the day, Rutte said. ‘It is good news this evening, but we are not yet there.’
The European Union’s coronavirus certificate will come into effect on July 1, De Jonge said. Given that not every adult in the Netherlands will have been vaccinated by that date, it is ‘only logical that we share the costs’ he said, referring to calls for free PCR tests for people who plan to go abroad on holiday.
The details are still being worked out and more will be made public in the coming weeks, De Jonge said.
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