SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The cabinet is poised to overrule its team of health advisory experts and sanction bar, café and cinema opening up to 10pm, sources in The Hague have told the AD and news agency ANP.
Indoor and outdoor events will also get the green light again, although there will be strict rules on capacity, the AD said. Indoor events will be limited to 1,250 visitors, while outdoors capacity will be limited to one third.
In addition, everyone will have to show a coronavirus pass. The NRC said at the weekend that the Outbreak Management Team had backed reopening the hospitality and cultural sectors, but only up to 8pm, with some exceptions.
Ministers have agreed to introduce a 10pm deadline across the board to make enforcement easier. Ministers will take a final decision on Tuesday, ahead of a 7pm press conference with prime minister Mark Rutte and health minister Ernst Kuipers.
The further relaxation of the rules, if confirmed, would come at a time when the number of new infections is soaring, and the regional health boards are struggling to cope with processing the numbers.
On Monday, 64,757 new infections were reported to the public health institute RIVM in the 24 hours to 10am, but thousands of other cases have not been processed.
Both the hospitality industry and the cultural sector staged protests about being closed last week, and a number of local mayors have called on the government to ‘fundamentally rethink’ its coronavirus strategy.
Junior culture minister Gunay Uslu said before the Friday cabinet meeting that cultural institutions should open as quickly as possible. ‘They have been closed for too long and that has to change,’ she said.
In parliament on Thursday, prime minister Mark Rutte said the government ‘is hoping for a relaxation in the rules but can’t give any guarantees’ until it has data on the effects of opening shops, contact professions and gyms on Saturday 15 January.