Non-essential shops are allowed to reopen between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. – not even by appointment, but ‘just’ is one of the relaxations. However, a limited number of customers per square meter is allowed.
Gyms can also start again, albeit that visitors must show a corona ticket. Hairdressers and sex workers can also get back to work.
Higher education and senior secondary vocational education are again allowed to receive students in the classrooms. At home, people are allowed to receive four instead of two people every day. In places where insufficient distance can be kept, such as on markets and on the work floor, medical masks are advised. This also applies to classrooms or lecture halls, even when seated.
In the meantime, the cabinet will remove the quarantine obligation from 21 January for those who have been in contact with an infected person and have no complaints. This only applies to crucial professions, for those who have had a booster vaccination and for those who have had corona after January 1, 2022. The urgent advice to use self-tests also remains in effect.
The minor easing goes further than the OMT advice. By proposing a modest relaxation, the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) had already shown that it does not look at the corona crisis purely from an epidemiological point of view. In the advice to the cabinet of the OMT this week, it was advised to reopen primary and secondary schools as well as senior secondary vocational education and higher education. Shopping should also only be possible by appointment.
The cabinet will go a step further on Friday evening: shopping by appointment will therefore become ‘normal’ shopping, albeit with a limited number of customers per square metre. Cultural practice is also possible. With this, dance and music lessons can start again, for both children and adults.
However, theaters and cinemas will remain closed, as will the catering industry. Sports competitions still have to do without an audience. You may also only exercise with your own group. As a concession to these sectors, the government wants to reassess the situation more quickly than usual. In ten days, the cabinet could decide to reopen the catering and cultural sector subject to conditions.
If the cabinet decided to do so now, it would be very far from the OMT recommendation. That would be a difficult story for the House of Representatives next week, especially now that the infection figures are breaking records. “We are talking about relaxation at a time when the infections are increasing,” said culture and education minister Robbert Dijkgraaf. “It’s an exciting situation.” At the same time, he acknowledged that the ‘resilience of young people is beginning to show fatigue’.
Less burden of care
In the meantime, the number of corona patients in hospitals is falling. For the first time since November 1, there are fewer than a thousand corona patients in the nursing wards. While the pressure on healthcare was the reason for the then outgoing cabinet to put the country in lockdown just before Christmas: we had to brace ourselves for the omicron variant.
Now that the new mutation of the coronavirus is dominant, it is indeed spreading rapidly, but the disease burden appears to be lower. That is why the cabinet is canceling the quarantine period for crucial professions and for those who have had a booster vaccine this year or who have become ill from corona.
In the meantime, the lack of understanding in society about the measures is increasing and the willingness to comply with them is diminishing. Mayors had announced that they would not fine cafes if they open against the rules. Boas said they would not enforce so strict if catering or cultural institutions opened anyway.
For the longer term, according to corona minister Kuipers, discussions should be held about the introduction of 2G, which has already been introduced in other countries. The healthcare minister expects to receive reports on the effectiveness of such corona access systems to the House next week.