Shops, bars and restaurants in a southern Dutch town have opened in a protest action that underscored growing anger after weeks of coronavirus lockdown measures
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Shops, bars and restaurants in a southern Dutch town opened on Friday in a protest action that underscored growing anger over weeks of coronavirus lockdown measures, a day before some of the restrictions are relaxed.
A local broadcaster showed people eating and drinking at outdoor restaurant tables on Valkenburg’s main street in open defiance of a lockdown in the Netherlands. Authorities in the tourist town, which was devastated by floods last year, have taken no action to enforce coronavirus restrictions.
Other cities in the region were planning similar protest openings on Saturday.
The country has been in dire straits since the week before Christmas under a move the government says is intended to ‘buy time’ to ease pressure on overburdened hospitals and speed up the country’s vaccine recall program .
While infections hit record numbers recently as the omicron variant emerged as the dominant strain of coronavirus, hospital and intensive care unit admissions have plummeted for weeks.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte is holding a COVID-19 press conference on Friday evening and Dutch media citing unnamed government sources are reporting that he is likely to allow non-essential shops as well as businesses such as hairdressers to reopen. Universities are also expected to reopen for in-person classes from Monday.
“There will be a real difference between today and tomorrow,” Social Affairs Minister Karien van Gennip told reporters ahead of a Cabinet meeting.
Bars, restaurants, museums and theaters are expected to remain closed, however, angering those sectors.
Dirk Beljaarts, chief executive of the National Hospitality Industry Group, said he met with new economic affairs minister Micky Adriaansens to push for bars and restaurants to be allowed to reopen.
“Cabinet cannot leave hospitality (and culture) as the only sectors out in the cold,” Beljaarts tweeted.
The lockdown has led to frustration, especially in towns like Valkenburg, close to the Dutch borders with Germany and Belgium, which see people visiting these neighboring countries for shopping or dining out as they have fewer restrictions .
The recall campaign was slow to kick off in the Netherlands, but has accelerated in recent weeks. Just over 86% of adults are fully immunized and 45% have received a booster shot.
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