Netherlands ends lockdown despite cases

·1-min read

After four months of strict lockdown, the Netherlands has taken a step towards normality as several of the country's coronavirus restrictions were lifted.

The Dutch government has opted to ease the restrictions despite persistently high case numbers and stark warnings from health experts.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte labelled the move a "calculated risk".

Citizens are able to roam the streets at night again, with the evening curfew imposed in January cancelled, while stores and terraces of restaurants are allowed to reopen under certain conditions.

Dutch people are also now able to welcome two visitors to their homes instead of just one.

The seven-day-incidence rate of infections per 100,000 people in one week currently sits at 317 - around double the figure in neighbouring Germany, where heavy restrictions are still in place.

However Rutte's government expects that case numbers will decline rapidly due to the increasing number of vaccinated people.

So far, more than five million people - about 30 per cent of adults - have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine in the country of some 17 million.

Under bright blue skies and spring temperatures, the city centres of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and the Hague filled up quickly on Wednesday with long queues forming in front of department stores, boutiques and furniture shops.

On the Vrijthof in the centre of Maastricht, people cheered and sang. Confetti was scattered.

"It's crowded," said a waitress on Dutch radio. "But super sociable."

Restaurants had been closed for more than six months.

"This is finally freedom again," two friends in Utrecht told TV station NOS.