Coronavirus measures in the Netherlands during Christmas
On Tuesday evening, around 5.5 million people watched Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge's press conference announcing that no coronavirus measures will be eased over Christmas.
Overall, this decision was not so surprising as the number of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands is still high. However, there were some who had hoped for good news on December 8th.
The Dutch gastronomy will be closed until January
Business owners are increasingly frustrated with the forced shutdown of restaurants, but were hoping for good news after a document from the Commerce Department leaked Tuesday afternoon. The document found that, according to the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), catering had a very limited impact on the national R number.
The document also states that opening catering facilities at Christmas could be safe: “Reopening the controlled environment of restaurants and restaurants will greatly reduce unsafe home visits. With strict conditions and protocols, restaurant reopening will not adversely affect R-Value. "
At the press conference, however, Rutte said he was not in favor of opening restaurants, which is why the catering facilities will be closed until (at least) mid-January. Robèr Willemsen, chairman of the union representing the Dutch hospitality industry, Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN), told AD that Rutte's decision made no sense: “We have to get around the table as soon as possible so that we can get back as soon as possible can open. "
Rutte was unable to give a clear answer on when the catering would be back up but said steps would be taken to provide more support for the sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak in the Netherlands. At a press conference on Monday morning, it was announced that the government had provided 3.7 billion euros for financial support.
Many experts support Rutte's coronavirus measures
While many may be upset, confused, or surprised that the Dutch government has decided not to relax measures for the holidays, others wholeheartedly support Rutte's decision. Anja Schreijer, member of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) and chair of the National Consultation on Infectious Disease Control, called it a "sensible" move and said: "There is simply no room for relaxation."
Aura Timen, head of the National Coordination of Infectious Disease Control, also believes that the coronavirus measures currently in place should be enough to contain the spread of the virus and fend off a third wave. However, she said that the effectiveness of measures depends entirely on the behavior of the public and whether they stick to the rules or not: “The only way out of this crisis is to behave in a way that is desirable. There are no magic bullets. If necessary, we will see if further tightening of the measures is needed, but that is not a problem at the moment. "
More information on the vaccination strategy in the Netherlands
Another topic raised at Tuesday's press conference was the government's vaccination strategy. De Jonge had previously stated that he hoped and planned to start vaccinating people in the Netherlands in the first week of January.
On Tuesday, he said the first people to receive the vaccine will be nursing home staff, followed by nursing home residents and people working in the disabled and home care. Healthcare workers receive the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, while nursing home residents receive the Moderna vaccine.
The government also announced that the Netherlands is expected to receive 507,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in early January (once the vaccine is approved by the European Medical Agency). Another 1.7 million cans will follow in the first quarter of 2021. The Netherlands is expected to receive 390,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine in the first quarter of next year.