AMSTERDAM — The Dutch government today announced that it will lift all COVID-19 restrictions starting on February 25 despite several thousand confirmed daily cases of the coronavirus, mostly of the less severe Omicron variant.
“The country will reopen,” Health Minister Ernst 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.
The government still advises against shaking hands and told people to get tested if they show “flu-like” symptoms, with Kuipers saying that “corona is not gone, keep that in mind,” and adding: “Luckily, hospitalizations do not increase like the number of infections does.”
About 86 percent of the adult Dutch population is fully vaccinated, one of the highest rates in Europe. Kuipers appealed to the unvaccinated and urged them to get the jab even though the latest variant is generally milder.
The Netherlands is one of several European countries that have decided to scrap all pandemic restrictions, following Denmark, Sweden, England and, from Saturday, Norway.