The Dutch government will today further ease Covid restrictions despite record numbers of infections, with restaurants, bars and theatres set to re-open on Wednesday.
Prime minister Mark Rutte told a news conference on Tuesday:
The Netherlands has missed you.
Today we are taking a big step to further unlock the Netherlands. That feels contradictory while the contamination figures are going through the roof, and we have to be clear that we are taking a risk.
Rutte said the decision was in response to â€œgreat tensionsâ€ with the hospitality and cultural sectors over a virtual lockdown imposed days before Christmas.
Anger mounted after shops, gyms, hairdressers and sex workers were allowed to resume business on 15 January, but other venues had to stay shut. Cafes in several cities opened in defiance of the restrictions the weekend before last, while dozens of museums even opened as well as beauty salons for a day in protest, Agence France-Presse reports.
The European country is currently seeing record numbers of coronavirus cases, with new infections running at around 60,000 a day, fuelled by the Omicron variant.
However, intensive care admissions and deaths have been falling.
Cafes, bars and restaurants can open again until 10pm, so long as patrons have a Covid pass, wear masks when not seated, and capacity is reduced, the government said.
Cinemas, theatres and museums may also welcome back customers, but nightclubs must stay closed for the time being.
Fans can also return to football matches and other professional sports, but stadium capacity will be limited.
Quarantine rules for schools will also be relaxed, with classes no longer having to shut if three or more cases are confirmed, and children under 18 need no longer isolate after contact with an infected person.