Netherlands begins cautious reopening as COVID-19 cases fall
Stefan de Vries in Amsterdam


The Netherlands has taken the next step in its relaxation of pandemic restrictions, with terraces now allowed to stay open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.. 

Outdoor entertainment venues such as zoos and amusement parks as well as indoor sports venues, including swimming pools and gyms, can reopen. Most of them had been closed since the lockdown came into effect in mid-December.

The measures are part of the government's six phases for reopening the country.



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Despite the cold and the rain on Wednesday, bar owners were enthusiastic about the longer opening hours.

"I'm excited, happy, yeah," said Paulo de Cock, manager of De Tulp. "Happy to welcome the guests, happy to see all my staff on the floor again." 

Yet, there is still a lot to wish for. He added: "I could fit 350 guests on the terrace, even when respecting the 1.5 meters social distancing. But now I'm only allowed to have 50 people. It's not enough, but still better than nothing."

Now the terraces are open again, caterers face another obstacle – a shortage of staff.

Even after the crisis, unemployment in The Netherlands remains very low and is falling.

In March, the rate was just 3.5 percent. "Right now, we are a team of 20 people, but in the summer, I think we need 70 people," says De Cock.

"Also, all restaurants are now looking for the same kind of people, chefs, sous-chefs, waiters. The competition to find staff is enormous. Maybe we will increase the wages to attract more people."


Gerhard Kamphuis hopes to be allowed to be busier soon. /Stefan de Vries

Gerhard Kamphuis hopes to be allowed to be busier soon. /Stefan de Vries

In December in Old South, an affluent district of Amsterdam, SportCity opened in a building that used to be the site of the Christie's auction house. 

The new club wasn't lucky with its timing, opening just a week before the lockdown. Today, the manager Gerard Kamphuis is ecstatic: "I opened the doors at 6 a.m. this morning and there was a tear in my eye."

In the gym, the same rules apply as to other indoor facilities.

Kamphuis explains: "We have to keep a distance, customers need to respect a clear route in the club, not all machines are available and all the wet facilities like the showers and the sauna are still closed. So the rules are quite strict indeed."

The giant club is hardly using a 10th of its capacity. "On a jam-packed night we can have up to 400 members at the same time working out in the club. Now we are limited to just 30 people at a time." says Kamphuis.

"You can imagine I can just dream of those very busy nights now." 

Libraries have also reopened and next week the government will announce a further loosening of the rules.

The latest relaxation of the restrictions came as the country recorded the steepest drop in hospital patients since January 1, so there is hope that, slowly, things will get back to normal again.

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