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Dutch to relax tough Covid restrictions: PM

Published on January 14, 2022

The Netherlands will ease some of the toughest Covid restrictions in Europe, allowing shops, gyms, hairdressers and sex workers to reopen, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Friday.

Bars, restaurants, cafes and cultural locations will however remain closed until at least January 25, Rutte told the first press conference since a new government was sworn in earlier this week.

Rutte said the relaxation was an “exciting moment” for the Netherlands, which spent Christmas and the New Year under lockdown since the restrictions were tightened on December 19.

Non-essential shops and other businesses can open daily until 5:00 pm from Saturday, along with sports clubs and higher education. Schools reopened on January 10.

New Health Minister Ernst Kuipers said the government had decided to start reopening society, with Covid hospital admissions falling despite a surge in infections with the Omicron variant to some 200,000 a week.

But Rutte said that it was too soon to open bars and other catering establishments, warning that new cases could soon reach 75,000 or 80,000 a day.

Several Dutch cities have said they will not stop hard-hit cafes and restaurants reopening during the daytime this Saturday in defiance of the government rules, but will crack down again after that.