Dutch to lift Covid curfew, let cafes serve outdoors

The Hague (AFP) –


The Dutch government said Tuesday it was relaxing tough coronavirus restrictions, ending a controversial curfew and allowing cafes to serve outdoors from April 28.

The introduction of the night curfew in January, the first in the Netherlands since World War II, sparked the country's worst riots for decades.

"We are of course glad that this is possible again because society yearns for more freedom," Prime Minister Mark Rutte told a press conference.

He added that it was a "step that is very careful and cautious", as infections are still rising week on week as the country tries to step up its vaccination programme.

Cafes will be allowed to serve people on outdoor terraces between 12 pm and six pm, with a maximum of 50 people, said Rutte.

People will also be allowed to have two guests at home per day, instead of the current limit of one.

Shops will meanwhile be allowed to admit customers without appointments, the government said.

Rutte, whose party won the most seats in elections in March on the back of his handling of the pandemic, insisted it was "no gamble" to ease Covid measures.

The Netherlands, with around 17 million inhabitants, has recorded 1.3 million Covid-19 cases and 16,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

After first opting for an "intelligent lockdown" that was far more lax than its European neighbours, the Dutch brought in tough restrictions in October as cases soared.

Days of riots broke out in several cities including Amsterdam and Rotterdam after the introduction of the curfew, which currently runs from 10 pm to 4:30 am.