Netherlands to ease COVID-19 restrictions

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Coronavirus restrictions in the Netherlands will be eased from Saturday despite a wave of new infections due to the Omicron variant, Dutch media reported.

Non-essential stores, hairdressers and gyms will be allowed to reopen for a limited number of customers, broadcasters NOS and RTL said, citing government sources. Students will be welcomed back to their colleges and universities.

Bars, restaurants, theatres, museums and other public places will remain closed.

The government will decide formally on the changes on Friday.

Public places, except essential stores, have been shut since mid-December as hospitals struggled to deal with a wave of COVID-19 patients, caused by the Delta variant of the virus.

Hospital numbers have since improved, but are expected to rise again in the coming weeks as new infections have jumped to record levels since Omicron became the dominant variant.

The improved situation in hospitals increased pressure on the government to ease restrictions, especially from shopkeepers in areas close to the German and Belgian borders, who said customers now went abroad for their shopping.

Local authorities in the south and east of the Netherlands this week said they would not intervene if shops chose to ignore orders to close.

Photo – A man peers through the window of a closed face mask store on the West-Kruiskade shopping street in Rotterdam, Netherlands. EPA-EFE/MARCO DE SWART

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