Face masks: two boxes for the price of one. Photo: Rob Engelaar ANP
Prime minister Mark Rutte and health minister Hugo de Jonge will hold what may be one of the last official coronavirus press conferences on Friday evening, during which they will announce a further relaxation of the rules – including a rumoured end to face masks apart from on public transport and at airports.
The new changes will come into effect on June 26 and will allow cafes and bars to open until midnight, bigger groups at cinemas and theatres and, according to some reports the home working requirement in offices where 1.5 metres distance can be kept will also be dropped.
The rules can be relaxed because of the impact of the vaccination programme. So far, some 13 million doses of vaccine have been given and people born in 2002 are now being called up to make an appointment.
Frits Rosendaal, a professor of clinical epidemiology at Leiden’s LUMC teaching hospital, told news website Nu.nl
that he is optimistic. ‘The number of people who have had one dose is braking the spread,’ he said. ‘And it does not appear as if the reproduction number will rise above 1.’
But there are still risks at an individual level, and long covid, which affects 5% to 15% of patients is a problem, Rosendaal said.
The Delta, or Indian, variant is another issue and is on the rise in the Netherlands, although it still has a low prevalence. And Rosendaal would like to see tougher restrictions on travel.
‘I can understand partially dropping the mask requirement and allowing people back to the office, but I do have issues with the travel recommendations,’ he said.
‘Flying is a very easy way to put people together and if infected English people go on holiday to places where there are lots of Dutch people, then things could go wrong.’ People from the UK have to go into mandatory quarantine in the Netherlands at present, although there are doubts about how effective that is being policed.
According to broadcaster RTL Nieuws, experts on the government’s Outbreak Management Team have said the 1.5 metre rule should not be relaxed until mid August, by which time everyone who wants to should have been vaccinated.
The 1.5 metre rule will, however, go at events which fall under the ‘test for entry’ scheme which are only open to people who have been vaccinated or have a negative coronavirus test.
If ministers accept all the OMT’s recommendations it means most of the most restrictive coronavirus rules in the Netherlands will disappear by the end of the month.
The 1.5 metre rule will, however, continue to affect museum, cinema and restaurant visits.
DutchNews.nl will be live tweeting from the press conference via @dutchnewsNL