Netherlands aims to drop most COVID measures this month

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The Dutch government said it aims to drop most of its coronavirus restrictions by the end of the month, as record levels of infections in recent weeks have only had a limited effect on hospital numbers.

Bars and restaurants will be allowed to stay open until 1 a.m. (midnight GMT) as of Feb. 18, instead of the current order to close at 10 p.m., health minister Ernst Kuipers said in a letter to parliament.

Social distancing measures will be dropped in public places by the end of the month, but visitors will need to show proof of either vaccination, a recent recovery from COVID-19 or a negative coronavirus test.

This would also allow theatres and sporting events to reopen at full capacity, while nightclubs and festivals could get back in business with a testing requirement for all visitors.

Coronavirus infections in the Netherlands have reached unprecedented levels in recent weeks because of the highly contagious Omicron variant, but the increase in the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals has remained modest.

The government will announce its new policies next Tuesday, following advice by its panel of health experts, Kuipers said.

Some other European countries are gradually loosening restrictions. For example, Spain lifted a requirement to wear masks outdoors on Thursday but they are still mandatory in enclosed spaces and on public transport.

Reporting by Bart Meijer; editing by Grant McCool

Photo – Employees of a carnival shed discuss coronavirus measures as they build a float for a carnival parade in Heerlen, the Netherlands, as they wait to see what form carnival can take place this year due to coronavirus pandemic. EPA-EFE/MARCEL VAN HORN

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