THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch government’s coronavirus press conference on Tuesday evening left the organizers of the Eurovision Song Contest and Dutch football association hopeful. Departing Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said he hopes that the “most restrictive” coronavirus lockdown measures can be relaxed in the period between mid-May and mid-June. And the government also wants to make more events and activities possible with access to COVID-19 tests.
By mid-June, most vulnerable people over the age of 60 should be vaccinated, which should ease pressure on hospitals, De Jonge said. He stressed that this is an estimate and that the date on which the measures will be relaxed cannot be predicted “with certainty”, because there are so many variables around it. That includes the delivery of vaccines – AstraZeneca in particular seems to be unreliable in keeping its delivery promises. There is also still uncertainty around the role people who’ve been vaccinated play in spreading the coronavirus.
All these uncertainties mean that the cabinet can only look a few weeks ahead, so there is no real perspective, De Jonge said. “We are looking step by step to see what is justified given the epidemiological situation,” he said. Despite this, he is hopeful about lockdown measures disappearing one after the other between mid-May and mid-June.
That is a hopeful sign, according to Eurovision organizer Sietse Bakker. The final of the song festival is on May 22 in Rotterdam Ahoy. “With access tests (and without curfew), the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 should be possible with an audience. Would be a fantastic #OpenUp moment for the Netherlands, while 180 million people are watching,” Bakker said on Twitter.
The KNVB is also hopeful
“The cabinet announced that rapid or access tests will be introduced at events in May,” the Dutch football association wrote on its website. “Never before has such concrete and positive perspective been offered. For the leagues in professional football, this in any case means that four more rounds in the premier division and three more rounds of play in the Keuken Kampioen- division plus play-offs can be played with the (limited) public this season.”
Employers’ organizations VNO-NCW and MKB-Nederland said in response to the lockdown extension, that the government must also extend and expand the support packages for businesses. They’d like the support packages to be extended to the end of the year, and for the government to come with a recovery plan to help entrepreneurs get rid of their debts.
The indoor sports sector in the Netherlands is disappointed but understands why the government decided to keep sports halls, swimming pools and fitness centres closed for the time being.
“The figures are bad, so there is little or no room to think about easing. That’s what it is at the moment,” Guido Davio of the Novebo volleyball association said to NOS.
“Given the current developments, this policy is logical, public health comes first,” Marieke van der Plas, director of gymnastics association KNGU, said to the broadcaster. “So we will have to hold on for a while.”