Netherlands Eases COVID-19 Lockdown

January 16, 2022Updated: January 16, 2022

AMSTERDAM—Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday announced the reopening of stores, hairdressers, and gyms, partially lifting the country’s strict lockdown.

“We are taking a big step and that also means we’re taking a big risk,” Rutte told a televised press conference.

Non-essential stores, hairdressers, beauty salons, and other service providers will be allowed to reopen under strict conditions until 5 p.m. local time for the first time since mid-December.

Rutte added that the uncertainties meant that bars, restaurants, and cultural venues would have to remain closed until at least Jan. 25.

Earlier on Friday restaurants in one Dutch city reopened and others said they would open on Saturday regardless of government plans.

“We are taking a calculated risk because we have to. Lockdowns are very hard on everyone and keeping everything closed is also bad for our health,” Health Minister Ernst Kuipers said.

Shoppers in Amsterdam
Shoppers are seen along the Kalverstraat, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on Jan. 15, 2021. (Evert Elzinga/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)

Rutte’s government ordered the lockdown in mid-December.

A poll by Hart van Nederland published on Friday found that 89 percent of people supported reopening stores and a majority also support reopening restaurants and cultural institutions.

More than 86 percent of Dutch adults are fully vaccinated and nearly 50 percent received a booster shot in a major campaign during the lockdown.

In the southern city of Valkenburg, restaurants opened on Friday in defiance of the rules and with support from the city’s mayor, and 15 other municipalities said they would follow suit on Saturday.

Rutte said he viewed the actions as one-off protests and had talked to municipal authorities about enforcing the new rules after this weekend.

Primary and secondary schools reopened on Jan. 10 after a longer-than-planned winter holiday, but have been plagued by frequent class dismissals due to illness or exposure of teachers or students.

On Friday the government said universities and vocational schools would also reopen and announced a shorter quarantine period after an exposure and an expansion of the use of masks.