The Hague, Europe Brief News – Netherlands announced new measures to loosening some of the toughest COVID-19 restrictions in Europe.
The announcement by Prime Minister Mark Rutte comes despite record new coronavirus infection levels.
Bars, restaurants, museums, theatres and other venues will re-open in the near future.
For more than a month, bars, restaurants, and cultural venues have been closed, while strict quarantine rules have shut a quarter of primary school classes in the Netherlands.
“We are taking a big step today to unlock the Netherlands while the infections numbers are really going through the roof,” the Prime Minister said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has earlier warned that the coronavirus pandemic “is nowhere near over”.
In an open letter to the world’s leaders, head of the WHO Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned against the assumption that the newly dominant Omicron variant is significantly milder and has eliminated the threat posed by the virus.
The intervention comes as some European nations saw record new case numbers.
Speaking during a news conference, Dr Tedros told reporters that the Omicron variant had led to 18 million new infections.
While the variant may prove to be less severe, “the narrative that it is a mild disease is misleading.”
“Make no mistake, Omicron is causing hospitalisations and deaths, and even the less severe cases are inundating health facilities.”
He warned global leaders that “with the incredible growth of Omicron globally. New variants are likely to emerge, which is why tracking and assessment remain critical”.