THEHAGUE -Dutch bars and restaurants hurried to stock up on supplies on Tuesday as the government was expected to announce they could reopen the next day as part of a further easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte is due to announce new easing measures at a 7 p.m. (1800 GMT) news conference, despite record new infection levels, as hospitalisations from the country’s Omicron wave have been lower than initially feared.
Rutte is expected to follow advice from his panel of health experts published on Monday supporting the limited reopening of bars, restaurants and theatres that have been closed since mid-December https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/netherlands-set-announce-strict-christmas-lockdown-media-2021-12-18. Schools were reopened in an earlier easing decision https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/new-dutch-government-expected-ease-month-long-covid-19-lockdown-2022-01-14 on Jan. 10 and non-essential stores reopened on Jan. 15.
Health experts said the Omicron coronavirus variant, which is now dominant in the Netherlands, “has a less serious clinical picture” than the Delta variant, which caused an earlier wave.
Foreign studies show hospital admissions with Omicron are between 40% and 60% lower, with intensive care admissions around half, they said.
Local government advisers said bars, restaurants and theatres should be allowed to open until 10 p.m., with reduced capacity to accommodate social distancing rules.
Patrons will also have to show proof of vaccination or recovery from an infection.
The likely easing comes despite continuing high infection levels. On Tuesday, the National Institute for Health (RIVM) reported a record 366,120 cases for the previous week, up 51%.
The overall number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals rose slightly over the past week, but the number in intensive care units declined.
Nearly 90% of Dutch adults have been vaccinated and around 57% have had a booster shot.