Frustration grows as Dutch cabinet mulls future of lockdown
The new Dutch government is meeting to discuss whether to extend or ease its coronavirus lockdown amid growing anger from owners of businesses that have been shuttered for weeks
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The new Dutch government met on Thursday to discuss whether to extend or ease its coronavirus lockdown amid growing anger from owners of businesses that have been shuttered for weeks.
The Netherlands has been under a strict lockdown since mid-December, with measures including the closure of all non-essential shops, bars, restaurants, cinemas, theaters and museums, while European neighbors such as Germany and Belgium have imposed far fewer restrictions.
This has led to frustration, especially in towns close to borders, which see people crossing borders to shop or dine out.
Containment is in place at least until the end of Friday. Prime Minister Mark Rutte and new Health Minister Ernst Kuipers will hold a press conference on Friday evening to announce the future of the measures.
Some businesses plan to open their doors on Saturday whether or not lockdown measures remain in place.
Shop owners in the Wyck district of the southern city of Maastricht, near the borders with Germany and Belgium, posted messages on social media to say they would be open from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, and shops in other cities have made similar plans.
In Dordrecht, near Rotterdam, business owners have made their point clear by renaming shopping streets Antwerp – a reference to a Belgian city that attracted thousands of Dutch visitors during the lockdown.
The city’s mayor, Wouter Kolff, tweeted that he had “a lot of understanding and appreciation for this playful action by our Dordrecht entrepreneurs”.
Despite the Dutch lockdown, which was imposed until at least midnight Friday, a rise in infections fueled by omicron has seen a record number of new cases in recent weeks, although hospital and ward admissions intensive care have decreased.
When the lockdown was announced on December 18, the head of the Dutch public health institute, Jaap van Dissel, described it as a preventative measure that would “buy time” for more people to get booster shots and for the country’s health system. prepare for a possible new wave of infections.
The recall campaign was slow to kick off in the Netherlands, but has picked up speed in recent weeks. Just over 86% of adults are fully immunized and 45% have received a booster shot.
Many companies are now calling for a relaxation of measures despite omicron spreading even more easily than previous coronavirus strains. Early studies show that omicron is less likely to cause severe disease than the previous delta variant, and vaccination and a booster still offer strong protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death.
Two leading organizations representing Dutch businesses this week added their influential voices to calls for an easing.
“Policy should be fully focused on reopening the economy from January 15,” employers and small business organizations said in a joint statement. “Lockdown is no longer feasible for entrepreneurs or for society as a whole and all other countries in Europe are also wide open.