10 December 2021, by Victoria Séveno
With the next coronavirus press conference set to take place next week, discussions in The Hague are well underway as the Dutch government looks at options for extending and amending the current set of national COVID-19 restrictions.
Evening lockdown to stay in place over Christmas?
While the number of hospital admissions and positive tests seems to be stabilising, the government remains concerned about the pressure on the Dutch healthcare system. The current restrictions – dubbed an evening lockdown by Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge – are due to lift on December 19, and the cabinet is already looking at what the next steps will look like.
There appear to be several options on the table. The evening lockdown, in its current form, could be extended. It could also be amended slightly, pushing the closing time back from 5pm to a later hour, or relaxing the rules for gyms and both amateur and professional sport. The visiting rules could also potentially be relaxed slightly for the festive season, as rules currently state a maximum of four household guests per day.
Some decisions have, however, already been made. In spite of the fact that the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) repeatedly advised for the lengthening of the upcoming school holidays in order to curb the spread of the virus amongst children and teaching staff, Education Minister Arie Slob announced on Thursday afternoon that schools would be remaining open.
Government ministers and health experts will meet on Sunday at Rutte’s official residence (the Catshuis) to discuss the situation and extension of the restrictions. The next press conference is scheduled to take place on Tuesday evening, although recent developments in regards to the formation of a new coalition could mean the press conference is rescheduled.
Faith in the Netherlands’ COVID-19 policy at an all-time low
The last government press conference left many feeling disappointed that they were once again facing a winter with COVID-19 restrictions. On the other hand, many felt the government wasn’t doing enough to combat the rising number of infections.
In fact, behavioural research conducted by the GGD and the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) has revealed that the public’s trust in the government’s handling of the crisis has reached an all-time low. Only 16 percent of those taking part in the study reported feeling positive about the government’s approach, with 71 percent saying (far) too few measures had been taken to limit the spread of the virus.
The GGD and RIVM also found that compliance with the rules had increased since the most recent press conference, as did the perceived threat of COVID-19. Their survey found that a greater proportion of respondents had returned to working from home, were keeping their distance from others, and had gotten tested if they were showing symptoms.