Netherlands won't ease lockdown further until at least mid May

FILE PHOTO: Dutch hold first big-hall music event since early 2020
·1 min read

By Bart H. Meijer

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Netherlands has postponed a further easing of lockdown measures until at least May 18 as COVID-19 infections remain high and hospitals are struggling with large numbers of coronavirus patients, the government said on Saturday.

"We are passing the peak of the third wave. But the decline (of the infection rate) is not strong enough yet", health minister Hugo de Jonge said on Twitter.

The Netherlands eased its lockdown slightly last week, as a night-time curfew was lifted and bars and restaurants which had remained shut since mid-October were allowed to serve small groups outdoors between noon and 6 p.m.

Small audiences have also been allowed to attend concerts, theater shows and soccer matches in recent weeks in an effort to see how events might safely be reopened.

In a next step, gyms, zoos and amusement parks would reopen on May 11, the government said last month, but this has now been postponed by a week at least. The government has not said when it will take any decision on further easing.

The number of COVID-19 patients in Dutch intensive care wards has climbed in recent weeks to its highest in a year as coronavirus infections swelled to levels last seen at the start of the year.

As of Friday, 2,706 coronavirus patients in the country of 17 million were in hospital, with 807 needing intensive care.

Since the start of the pandemic, around 1.5 million coronavirus infections have been confirmed in the Netherlands, with more than 20,000 deaths.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by David Holmes)

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