Dutch government is phasing out virus restrictions as cases drop | Economic news

By MIKE CORDER, Associated Press

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch government announced on Tuesday that it will remove virtually all of its remaining coronavirus restrictions by the end of the month, as infection rates begin to drop and pressure on health services declines.

“The country is opening up again,” said Health Minister Ernst Kuipers.

The Dutch are following neighboring Belgium and other European countries in easing restrictions as the continent increasingly seeks ways to coexist with the virus without the economic and social damage wrought by lockdown measures.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Dutch national institute of public health said in its weekly update that new cases of COVID-19 had fallen by 22% in the past seven days and intensive care admissions had fallen by 28. %.

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“It looks like we’re at the top or above,” Kuipers said.

Late last year, the government imposed some of the strictest lockdown measures in Europe, fearing that a rise in infections caused by the omicron variant could overwhelm hospitals. But as cases rose, admissions to intensive care units fell, allowing authorities to ease restrictions that had forced bars and restaurants to close during the lucrative Christmas holiday season.

Hospitality and other public places have been open for weeks with limited hours. Nightclubs remained closed, angering owners and clubbers.

Lockdowns and vaccination campaigns have angered and resented a small section of society and sparked regular protests, some of which have turned violent.

Kuipers said the restrictions would be eased in three stages.

With immediate effect, the government has dropped its advice to always work from home and instead urged people to work from home half the time. He also dropped his advice to limit the number of visitors allowed into their homes to four a day.

From Friday, bars, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and other public places will be allowed to stay open until 1 a.m. instead of the current 10 p.m. closing order. Visitors to these places will no longer have to sit still and wear a mask when walking around.

One week later, pre-pandemic hours of operation will apply to all public places and a COVID-19 cure pass will no longer be required to access the premises. Social distancing and mask mandates will be dropped with the exception of wearing masks on public transport and at airports.

Kuipers said the country’s current pandemic situation means such measures are no longer necessary.

“Corona has cast a shadow over our lives. Corona has made us lonely. Corona has sometimes created deep divisions between us,” he said. “Fortunately, we are now in another phase.”

The Netherlands has reported more than 21,900 deaths from COVID-19 in the pandemic.

Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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