Netherlands ends lockdown – but cafes and culture remain closed

DEN HAAG (dpa-AFX) – After almost four weeks and under strong pressure from entrepreneurs, the Netherlands are ending the strict corona lockdown. But strict measures remain. Shops, hairdressers and sports clubs as well as universities may reopen from Saturday. This was announced by Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday evening in The Hague. Restaurants, museums, theaters and cinemas remain closed. Innkeepers and the cultural sector are outraged.

In view of the dramatically increasing number of infections, more sectors could not be opened at the same time, said Rutte. “You can’t do everything at the same time, the risk is too great.” There may be new easing at the end of the month.

Health Minister Ernst Kuipers spoke of a “new phase of the pandemic”. The need among citizens and entrepreneurs is great. “We have to learn to live with the virus.” However, the risk of the healthcare system being overloaded remains high.

Resistance to the tough measures had increased sharply in the past few days. Restaurant owners have already announced protests for Saturday and want to open their cafes and restaurants despite the ban. They are often supported by mayors. In the southern city of Valkenburg near Aachen, numerous shops and restaurants were already open on Friday.

According to the government’s decision, shops are again allowed to receive customers until 5 p.m. every day. Citizens are allowed to receive four visitors at home, up from two. The quarantine obligation does not apply to those who have received a booster vaccination or were infected this year. So far, only supermarkets and pharmacies have been open.

The lockdown from December 19 should give the hospitals some breathing room. Despite daily highs in new infections, the number of patients in hospitals is falling. More than 35,000 new infections were registered on Friday – more than ever before. That’s more than 1,300 cases per 100,000 people in seven days. For comparison: In Germany this value is 470./ab/DP/he

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