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Dutch celebrate carnival as most Covid curbs end

Decked out from head to toe in fancy dress, singing and dancing as the beer flows free, Dutch revellers celebrated carnival on Friday, as the Netherlands axed most Covid restrictions.

The country is one of the last in Europe to ease towards normal after last December imposing some of the continent’s toughest measures to curb a surge in Omicron infections, especially unpopular among Dutch party animals.

“Covid is over, now it’s time to party,” said Senna Godefroy, 26, dressed in a yellow and florescent orange jumpsuit in the carnival town of Breda in the southern Netherlands.

Friday saw bars and restaurants allowed to stay open beyond 1:00 am, health passes dropped and social distancing axed. Masks remain compulsory only on public transport.

In Breda, hundreds of people thronged bars and cafes in balloon-festooned streets as music blared out and disco balls glittered again until late.

“It’s weird that everything is suddenly free of measures but it’s fantastic,” said Jesper Naio, a 22-year-old financial advisor.

“We’ve been waiting for it for so long,” said Sanne van de Wael, a 22-year-old student.

Carnival season in 2020 marked the start of coronavirus spreading in the Netherlands.

With a population of 17 million people, the Netherlands has recorded 21,414 deaths linked to Covid-19 and 5.8 million cases during the pandemic. More than 85 percent of the adult population is vaccinated.

“Two years to make up for,” chanted party goers in Breda, brimming with enthusiasm, wearing flower garlands and carnival masks.