Netherlands expected to ease COVID curbs despite record infections

A general view of a largely deserted Dutch urban centre is seen as the country enters into its third day of lockdown, in Den Bosch, Netherlands December 21, 2021. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

January 25, 2022

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – The Dutch government is expected to announce on Tuesday it will allow restaurants, bars and theatres to re-open despite record numbers of coronavirus infections.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Ernst Kuipers are expected to announce the new rules at a news conference at 7 p.m. (1800 GMT).

Late on Monday, the government released official advice of health experts and local government officials who support the end of a strict lockdown that has been in effect since mid-December.

Despite record infections, the experts said the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, which is now dominant in the Netherlands, “has a less serious clinical picture” than the Delta variant, which caused an earlier wave.

Foreign studies show hospital admissions with Omicron are between 40% and 60% lower, while intensive care admissions halved, they said.

Government advisers said bars, restaurants and theatres should be allowed to open until 10 p.m.

Patrons will have to produce a pass that shows when a person is fully vaccinated or has recovered from an infection, or can show a negative recent test. Amusements parks, zoos and sports matches are also expected to be allowed to open for crowds.

On Monday, more than 60,000 new infections were recorded over a 24-hour period.

The Dutch association of regional public health authorities, GGD GHOR, said it had reached maximum capacity and warned that people would have to wait longer to get tested.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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