Monday 15 August 2022

Dutch poised to lift most remaining coronavirus restrictions

Photo: Depositphotos.com

The government is almost certain to announce it is suspending all the coronavirus rules from February 25, apart from the basic hygiene regulations, broadcaster NOS said on Monday evening.

Cabinet sources have told the broadcaster that ministers are prepared to go further than the recommendations made by the Outbreak Management Team which were sent to parliament by health minister Ernst Kuipers on Monday evening.

The OMT is recommending that the use of face masks be dropped as well as social distancing. Home working will no longer be the standard policy either but should be phased out in stages.

But the government experts are keen to see the use of the coronavirus pass continue – something that the cabinet is now planning to drop on February 25, if the NOS report is accurate.

The NOS report would also indicate that cafes and clubs will be able to open for regular hours from February 25, which is earlier than planned and also coincides with the start of the Carnaval season. The OMT has recommended extending the opening hours of clubs to 1am.

The OMT also suggests allowing mass events and festivals to go ahead again as long as all guest have a negative coronavirus test – the so-called 1G strategy. This is likely to be adopted by the cabinet, NOS said.

In addition, the OMT is recommended reducing the compulsory isolation period for people with coronavirus from seven to five days, on condition the patient is symptom free for 24 hours.

Consequences

Despite the plans to relax most of the rules, the OMT is warning that society must prepare for the consequences. ‘More people will have to go into isolation, leading to staff loss in various sectors,’ the OMT said. ‘In addition, the needs of people with vulnerable health conditions must also be taken into account.’

Other experts have also expressed concerns. The public health institute RIVM’s behavioural unit says that scrapping the 1.5 metre rule could be seen as a sign that the pandemic is over.

‘This could have a negative impact on adherence to the rules and recommendations which do remain in place,’ the RIVM said.

Last week it became clear that the government was planning to move further towards liberalisation because the Omicron variant is not having a major impact on hospitals.

The final decisions will be taken on Tuesday morning ahead of the evening press conference when Kuipers will present the results to the public without prime minister Mark Rutte.

You can follow the press conference live on Twitter via the DutchNews.nl Twitter feed.

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