Bars and cafes will be open for longer hours from Wednesday, gyms can reopen again and sex workers can ply their trade, now the government has decided it is responsible to further relax the coronavirus regulations.

The changes had been penciled in with the proviso that infection rates had come down sufficiently and this is now the case, health minister Hugo de Jonge told reporters on Monday.

‘We are seeing a good drop in the figures,’ De Jonge said, after meeting with the government’s health experts. ‘It is largely due to the impact of the vaccine.’

‘Although we are not there yet and we must remain cautious, this next step is a responsible decision,’ De Jonge said.

The decision means that from Wednesday, outdoor locations such as amusement parks and zoos can re-open, as long as they follow protocol. Indoor locations, such as museums, remain closed.

Gyms and indoor swimming pools can also open their doors again, as long as they do not admit more than 30 people at one time and that changing rooms remain shut – apart from at pools.

Cafes and restaurants can open their outdoor spaces from 6am to 8pm, and libraries will also be able to reopen, following calls from MPs.

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The measures are included in stage 2 of the government’s five-step plan to reopen the Netherlands as the impact of the pandemic eases.

If infections continue to decline, the next step will be taken in three weeks time, De Jonge said. Then people will be able to have more than two visitors at home, museums will reopen and restaurants will also be able to serve clients indoors.

Ministers are also looking at a further relaxation of the rules covering schools and universities and will decide on that next week.

Computer problem

Monday’s new coronavirus infection figures were distorted by computer problems, the public health institute RIVM said.

Just 2,904 cases were reported to the RIVM in the 24 hours to Monday 10am. The missing cases will be incorporated into the rest of this week’s figures.

On average 5,047 new cases a day have been reported over the past week, a decline of 28% on a week ago.


Photo: Government of the Netherlands / Arenda Oomen