A view of a street of restaurants and bars in Nijmegen, Netherlands, January 26, 2022. Image Credit: Reuters

Netherlands to drop most COVID measures starting Friday

Amsterdam: The Dutch government will lift most of its coronavirus restrictions as of Friday, as the record levels of infections triggered by the Omicron variant have not translated in a peak of hospitalisations, health minister Ernst Kuipers said on Tuesday.

"The country will open up again ... happily we are in a different phase now," Kuipers said during a press conference.

Bars and restaurants will be allowed to stay open until 1 a.m. (midnight GMT) as of Friday, instead of 10 p.m.

Kuipers, who said he was optimistic about the situation but still urged caution, added that normal closing hours would resume starting Feb. 25.

"We have just passed the peak (of new cases), that is why we insist we all should remain careful," he said, adding masks were not mandatory anymore but remained recommended.

Social distancing measures will be dropped in public places by the end of the month, but visitors will need to show proof of either vaccination, a recent recovery from COVID-19 or a negative coronavirus test.

Some other European countries are gradually loosening restrictions. For example, France's nightclubs can reopen Wednesday.