As from Saturday, people can once again visit non-essential shops, hairdressers and other contact professions by appointment, report RTL-Nieuws and NOS. Gyms will reopen too, but the hospitality and culture sectors will reportedly remain closed.
The government’s decision is based on the latest scenarios outlined by the Outbreak Management Team. The Omicron variant of the virus causes less severe illness than previously feared. The news will become official only if it is announced by Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Ernst Kuipers at a press conference on Friday evening.
On Wednesday, student organisations, educational institutions and psychiatrists emphasised the need for higher education and secondary vocational education to reopen. They referred to the huge emotional strain that the lockdown has placed on students. Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf also stressed that reopening educational institutions is high on the list of priorities.
It is not yet clear under what conditions and to what extent higher education can start again. On Monday, the OMT wrote that students and teachers must wear medical face masks when they come to campus again, not only when moving around in the buildings but also if they attend ‘classes in larger groups ‘.
In an interview with Vox (the news medium of Radboud University Nijmegen), which appeared yesterday, OMT member Andreas Voss clarified that face masks would also have to be worn during tutorials and exams.
He also said that higher education should think carefully about the use of face-to-face education: ‘Lectures for large groups of students could remain online, while tutorials with a fixed format could – with social distancing and good ventilation – take place face to face.’