After a long, grueling 15 months, with the last 6 of them feeling the longest, life seems to be returning to normal, and not a day too soon.
On 8 December 2020, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge squashed all our hopes of having a normal, festive season when new, strict lockdown measures were announced, including the first curfew (from 9 pm to 4:30 am) since the Second World War.
With zoos, theatres, theme parks, sports and every other entertainment facility closed, there was nowhere left for us to go. There was little surprise when people decided to show their anger and disagreement by protesting and even rioting all over the country.
But just as the days grew longer and chilly spring gave way to warm summer days, the Dutch government decided it is time to thaw the pandemic measures that seem to have been keeping us frozen at our homes.
As of 5 June, life in the Netherlands has more or less returned to its normal self, but with some small precautionary measures still in place:
- Art and culture enthusiasts, rejoice! Museums and historical monuments are open again, with a fixed number of people allowed in at any given time – one visitor per 10 m2. Practicing art in groups is also possible again; you don’t even have to keep5 metres distance if it’s not possible for the art form (e.g. dancing). Gatherings of more than 50 people are not allowed, nor is an audience.
- Theaters and cinemas are open; however, prior reservation is required. You also have to fill out a health check before entry. Groups of no more than four people are allowed to sit together, not counting children up to the age of 12. People from the same household can sit together. Otherwise, 1.5 metres distance must be kept between groups.
- Amusement parks, zoos and other such places are open again, including both outdoor as well as indoor attractions. A time slot or day ticket reservation is required at these places. Again, one visitor is allowed per 10 m2 and a maximum of four people per group. You have to wear a mask at indoor attraction.
- If you have been jonesing to tango with lady luck, then you have to wait no more: casinos and gaming locations are open again.
- Good news for fitness enthusiasts: wellness centers, gyms, indoor swimming pools and saunas are open, again with one visitor allowed per 10 m2 and a maximum of 50 people in total, who should maintain 1.5 m distance from each other. Outdoor group sports are also permitted with a maximum of 50 people; they do not have to obey the 5 m distance rule if it’s necessary for the sport (e.g. football or martial arts). Children up until 17 years of age are finally allowed to play matches against kids from other clubs; adults can only play matches against people from the same club.
- Indoor restaurants and cafes can open again between 6 am and 10 pm. You can’t sit at the bar, but you can sit with a group of four at the same table. You will need prior reservations (or at least check in at the door), fill out a health check form and wear a face mask when moving around. The same rules apply to outdoor terraces.
- No more making appointments to visit your favorite stores and stressing about cramming all the shopping within half an hour to an hour: shops are now open without appointment. However, only one person per 10 m2 is allowed in.
According to Hugo de Jonge, the relaxation of measures has only been possible due to a decrease in the number of infections and the rapidly rising number of vaccinated people. At the time of writing, almost 11 million vaccinations had been administered. The government is currently vaccinating 1 million people per week, aiming to increase this to 1.5 million per week.
However, it’s not yet time to abandon all measures, says Leiden professor of clinical epidemiology Frits Rosendaal. We should not repeat the mistake of last year, when the cabinet allowed everyone to ‘have a nice holiday’ and the virus made an even stronger comeback by August. “With over 10 million vaccinations delivered, we are in a better position than last year, but only a vaccination rate of 75 percent will create sufficient herd immunity to keep the virus at bay. We’re not there yet. Moreover, many people have only had one shot so far and are not yet fully protected,” says Rosendaal.
Yes, it’s happy news for everybody, but it will be in our best interest to remember that the vaccine doesn’t give us a hundred percent protection from the virus, and even when vaccinated, one can contract the virus again, not to mention spread it to others. If the infection numbers rise again because of our callousness, we might find ourselves stuck at home once again.
Written by Priyanka Sharma