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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - THE HAGUE — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte Tuesday announced some changes to the current coronavirus regulations, but said the curfew in the Netherlands will be extended until March 15.
Speaking at a press conference at The Hague this evening he said secondary schools will open again from March 1 and each pupil should have at least one day's lessons at school.
Some of the lockdown measures are being eased, however, in a bid to make the crisis more "bearable". "We are on our way to better times," Rutte said in the press conference.
From March 3, hairdressers and other 'contact' professions can start up again and teenagers and adults up to the age of 27 can play team sports outside, but not formal competitions, Dutch News NL portal quoted him saying.
In addition, from March 3, shops can open to customers by appointment. All four measures will have a "socially positive impact" Rutte said. However, the relaxation of the rules is 'not a free ticket' and can be reversed, Rutte warned.
He stressed on wearing a mask in the supermarket, working at home and having a test even with the mildest symptoms.
On his part, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge told the joint press conference that "it will still be a while before we get our old lives back". He noted that testing and the vaccination strategy are offering the way forward.
"We are at a time when we have to be prepared to take a little bit more risk," Rutte said. It's part of a plan to ease a lockdown-weary nation out of restrictions while vaccination campaigns continue.
But with roughly 4,000 new COVID cases a day and the emergence of new more transmissible variants, many European countries are facing a tough balance.
The 9:00 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. coronavirus curfew sparked mass protests when it first came into effect. Last week, a court in The Hague said the government had abused its emergency powers to impose it and ordered it to stop.
But the government appealed and subsequently rushed legislation through parliament to give the curfew a stronger legal backing.
Rutte announced the changes to the lockdown after the country’s public health body said that COVID infections rose by 19% in the past week in part due to more testing.
Just under 800,000 people have received a first dose of the COVID vaccine in the Netherlands. The lockdown easing comes ahead of a general election planned for March 17. — Agencies
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