The new government is poised to relax some of the current coronavirus restrictions, allowing non-essential shops and fitness centres to reopen by appointment, universities to offer physical lessons and hairdressers to start working again.

The new cabinet met on Thursday to discuss the current situation amid growing pressure from local government, MPs and industry to abandon the lockdown. But there are no plans as yet to allow cafes and restaurants, or museums, to reopen their doors, sources in The Hague told NOS.

The changes, which will also involve new opening times, will come into effect on Saturday, the sources said. The government is also planning to make masks compulsory in more places, and to increase the standard to type 2 medical masks with a CE certificate.

The AD said the cabinet’s decision is in line with recommendations made by government health advisors in the Outbreak Management Team (OMT). The scenarios for how the pandemic is likely to progress are less worrying than a month ago, when hospital admissions were expected to reach a peak in mid January.

The cabinet is keeping a finger on the pulse and will relax the rules for the hospitality industry and cultural sector as soon as possible, a source told the paper. ‘Despite the large number of Omicron cases, the latest figures show that fewer people are being admitted to hospital and those who are stay for shorter periods. So there is some room.’

This evening, justice minister Dilan Yesilgöz will meet mayors on the regional safety boards to hear their views and tomorrow ministers will finalise the package. On Friday evening there will be a new press conference given by prime minister Mark Rutte and new health minister Ernst Kuipers. The format is likely to change and Kuipers will give an illustrated update on the pandemic, NOS said.