“Back to Normal”: Netherlands Announces Plan to Drop Almost All COVID-19 Restrictions by February 25
Dutch Health Minister Ernst Kuipers confirmed on Tuesday (Feb. 15) that the Netherlands will indeed drop nearly all COVID-19 restrictions in three steps over the next ten days.
“The country will reopen,” Kuipers said during a press conference, the first such briefing since the start of the pandemic to take place without Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
All public venues—including cinemas, restaurants and bars—will be able to resume normal operations at full capacity for the first time in almost two years. Face coverings and social distancing will no longer be mandatory in most places but will still be required on public transport and at airports.
“More people than ever have been infected. After the latest relaxation of measures, the number of infections continued to rise,” he said about the latest wave of infections. However, the staggering amount of infections has not resulted in a similarly sharp rise in hospitalizations due to COVID-19, he continued. “What we had hoped, turned out to be correct. We are more resistant to the virus thanks to vaccines, and previous infections.”
The Netherlands is one of several European countries that have decided to scrap all pandemic restrictions, following Denmark, Sweden, England and, from Saturday, Norway.
Cases of COVID-19 Drop in Denmark, Justifying Early End to Pandemic Restrictions
On Tuesday (Feb. 15), Denmark registered a decline in the SARS-CoV-2 reproduction rate for the first time in over a month, indicating that the Nordic country is getting close to so-called “hybrid immunity”— a combination of COVID-19 vaccinations and infections.
After becoming one of the first European countries to abandon pandemic restrictions, cases surged to levels far higher than more cautious neighbors like Germany. That raised questions about the approach, including from the likes of Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman.
Two weeks after Denmark declared that COVID-19 was no longer a threat to society, the reproduction rate fell to 0.9 on Tuesday, meaning the outbreak is shrinking. It was the first time the R-rate was below 1 since January 4, when health authorities said the data was skewed due to the Christmas holiday.
The decline is backed by sewage samples showing lower virus levels, according to Tyra Grove Krause, a director at Denmark’s institute for infectious disease.