On Thursday evening, the Dutch government confirmed reports that it planned to relax a number of national coronavirus restrictions at next week’s press conference. A statement published to the government’s website briefly outlined its proposed next steps, saying they should come into effect on Friday, February 18.

Dutch government faces increasing pressure to relax restrictions

All week, reports from The Hague have suggested that the government was expected to further lift restrictions at the upcoming coronavirus press conference. While Prime Minister Mark Rutte had already said he felt optimistic about the situation, a recent statement has revealed these reports to be true. 

On Thursday, Health Minister Ernst Kuipers submitted a letter to the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer), proposing new ministerial regulation for the national COVID-19 restrictions. The letter explains the cabinet’s hope to “give more space to society” from February 18.

Various COVID-19 rules likely to be lifted in the Netherlands

While the message delivered at Tuesday’s press conference hinges on the advice from the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) which is due to be published on Friday, as things stand Rutte’s cabinet plans to push the enforced closing time for the hospitality industry back from 10pm to 1am.

Furthermore, while the coronavirus certificate system isn’t set to be abolished just yet, the cabinet does want venues that fall under 3G rules to be able to admit an increased number of visitors. At events and venues for up to 500 people, visitors would no longer be required to maintain 1,5-metre distance or be assigned a fixed seat. For larger venues, fixed seating would remain mandatory, but the 1,5-metre distance rule would also be lifted. 

Finally, while the coronavirus certificate system has proven increasingly controversial over recent weeks, Kuipers writes that keeping 3G rules in place means “the distance rule, fixed seating rule, and mask mandate can be lifted” at events and venues with less than 500 people. According to Kuiper’s plan, the rules for large non-seated events would remain unchanged for the time being.

Next coronavirus press conference on February 15

The current plan means that not all restrictions will be lifted next week, but it does mark a significant step towards the end of coronavirus measures. In his letter, Kuipers has also asked the OMT for their advice regarding the use of 1G rules – under which only those who have tested negative for COVID-19 are permitted entry – for reopening nightclubs, and whether the 1,5-metre rule can be safely scrapped from February 25. 

The next coronavirus press conference is scheduled for Tuesday, February 15. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, Rutte will not be present, as his presence is required at a debate in the Senate (Eerste Kamer).

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