The Netherlands has postponed a further easing of lockdown measures until at least May 18 as coronavirus cases remain high and hospitals are grappling with huge numbers of COVID-19 patients, the government said on Saturday.
“We are passing the peak of the third wave. But the decline (of the infection rate) is not strong enough yet”, health minister Hugo de Jonge tweeted.
The country eased its lockdown slightly last week, as a night-time curfew was lifted and restaurants and bars which had remained closed since mid-October were allowed to serve small groups outdoors between noon and 6 p.m.
Small audiences have also been permitted to attend theater shows, concerts and soccer matches in recent weeks in a bid to see how events might safely be reopened.
In a next move, amusement parks, gyms and zoos would reopen on May 11, the government said last month, but this has now been deferred by a week at least. The government has not revealed when it will take any decision on further easing.
The number of coronavirus patients in Dutch intensive care units has jumped in recent weeks to its highest in a year as COVID-19 infections swelled to levels last seen at the beginning of the year.
As of Friday, 2,706 COVID-19 patients in the country of 17 million were in hospital, with 807 needing intensive care.
Since the start of the pandemic, nearly 1.5 million COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the Netherlands, with over 20,000 fatalities.