The cabinet will probably take the decision this Monday at the Catshuis to significantly relax the corona measures. The Outbreak Management Team (OMT), which met on Friday, advised positively about the reopening of the catering and culture sector, sources around the cabinet say. The OMT has suggested to the cabinet that these and other sectors can reopen until 8 p.m., but the cabinet is still looking at that time and is considering customization for certain sectors. On Tuesday there will be definitive clarity in a new corona press conference.
In addition to the relaxation for the catering and culture sector, it is also expected that events can be organized again during the day and that the public will again be welcome at sports competitions such as the Eredivisie. Because football matches often take place in the evening and parts of the cultural sector such as theaters and concert halls also depend on the evenings, the cabinet is still looking at whether the closing time of all sectors can be moved to, for example, 10 p.m. If this proves to be too great a risk, exceptions for, for example, professional football and theaters will be considered.
If the relaxations become final, the Netherlands will largely be removed from the lockdown lock from next Wednesday. More than a week ago, the new cabinet announced relaxations for higher education, retail, the sports sector and contact professions. Disappointed entrepreneurs in the catering and culture sector took action last week to be allowed to open as well. The cabinet said that a step-by-step easing of the lockdown is necessary, but promised to look at relaxations for the catering and culture sector within ten days. Many mayors also asked the cabinet to respond quickly to these sectors last week.
Due to the large numbers of visitors, the reopening of the catering and culture sector is not without epidemiological risk and therefore, according to sources, the cabinet must take place under “firm conditions”. It is expected that numerous safety measures will continue to apply, including a placement obligation, a maximum number of visitors, the mandatory wearing of mouth masks and the use of the corona pass with which visitors must demonstrate that they have been vaccinated, cured or tested negative.
The largely reopening of society comes at a time when the infection rates from the Omikron variant only continue to rise. On Sunday, RIVM reported more than 65,000 positive tests, a new daily record. These numbers are less problematic because Omikron is a lot less sickening than previous variants: hospital occupancy barely increases more than three weeks after the infections started to rise.
Koninklijke Horeca Nederland responded positively to the leaked OMT advice this weekend and spoke of “a nice next step towards full reopening”. There were mixed reactions from the cultural sector. Boris van der Ham, chairman of both the Dutch Association for Cinemas and Film Theaters (NVBF) and the Association Free Theater Producers (VVTP), called a closing time of 8 p.m. on Twitter “actually the same as a lockdown”.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of January 24, 2022