Dutch set to reopen daycare, primary schools amid falling COVID-19 infection rates

Dutch nursery and primary schools are set to reopen on February 8 amid falling coronavirus infection rates. Source: Wojtek Radwanski/AFP

Dutch nursery and primary schools are set to reopen on Feb. 8, 2021 amid falling COVID-19 infection rates, the government announced Sunday, despite concern over new, more infectious variants of the disease.

Schools in the Netherlands have been closed since mid-December amid a second wave of infections in the lowlands nation of 17.2 million people, where almost 14,000 have now died of COVID-19.

“The cabinet this afternoon decided it would be justifiable to allow children to return to daycare and primary schools on Feb. 8, 2021,” Education Minister Arie Slob said.

“It’s a relief that the schools can open again. For parents and teachers, but of course especially for the pupils,” Slob told reporters after a cabinet meeting in The Hague.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely, because the situation remains serious in the Netherlands,” the minister added, referring to concerns over new variants such as the one from Britain, which scientists say is more contagious.

But Dutch health authorities on Sunday reported 3,714 new COVID-19 cases, “the lowest number in a while”, with 40 deaths recorded.

The cabinet also discussed the possibility of an overnight 9-4 curfew, which sparked three days of severe rioting in across the country last week. No decisions around the curfew were announced.

Meanwhile protesters again demonstrated on Sunday, but the gatherings were mainly peaceful.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in the central city of Apeldoorn for a legal protest, organised under the rallying call of “Drinking a coffee together”. They later left peacefully watched by a heavy police presence.

In Amsterdam, police in vans, on horseback and on foot cleared the Dutch capital’s famous Museumplein after hundreds of protesters gathered for an illegal demonstration.

More than 978,000 people have tested positive for the disease since COVID-19 was first reported in the Netherlands almost a year ago, according to official figures.