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Reopening society step by step in the Netherlands

The COVID-19 crisis is not yet over. People are still catching the disease and being admitted to hospital. At the same time, more and more people are being vaccinated. That is a positive development. Pre-admission tests can also open up further opportunities.

Reopening society

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital is expected to fall sharply over the next few weeks. That’s why the government intends to gradually lift restrictions. But caution is required. Because if restrictions are lifted too fast, the number of infected people might increase again.

Conditions for reopening society

How fast the steps set out in the reopening plan can be taken depends on the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital. The fewer the patients, the more quickly restrictions can be lifted.

Steps of the reopening plan

The government intends to open up society over a period of 3 months. So that nearly everything will be allowed again in the summer, although sometimes subject to certain conditions. As a precautionary measure, everyone should keep following the basic rules in order to prevent the virus from spreading. There are 6 steps.

The first step was taken on 28 April 2021. From that date, shops and outdoor seating areas at restaurants and cafés will then be allowed to reopen. And the curfew was lifted. 

The second step will not be taken until at least 18 May. People will be able to participate in indoor sports again, and music schools will reopen, for example. Zoos and similar venues will also reopen, under certain conditions. This will be decided on 11 May.

The lifting of measures such as the advice to work from home, the requirement to wear a face mask in certain locations and the other basic rules has been established as step 6. As yet, no date has been determined for this step.

Responsible steps

The government will constantly review what steps can responsibly be taken. And what is most important for society. This means:

  • restrictions on outdoor activities will be relaxed before those on indoor activities;
  • more sport and cultural activities will first be allowed without spectators, and later with spectators;
  • the number of people allowed to gather will gradually be increased.

The reopening plan does not set out every single detail. Each time a step is taken, the government will announce exactly what will change and what conditions apply. After step 2, the government will review the reopening plan and make any adjustments necessary

Vaccination, basic rules and testing

The fewer COVID-19 patients there are in hospital, the faster the restrictions can be lifted. That’s why getting vaccinated, following the basic rules and testing are so important. These factors will therefore also affect how fast society can open up.


More and more people are getting vaccinated. This means fewer elderly people are dying. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital is expected to fall sharply in the coming weeks. The turning point will probably be reached in early May. But this is still uncertain.

Basic rules

It’s important for everyone to keep following the basic rules. Including people who have been vaccinated. That means:

  • wash your hands;
  • keep your distance;
  • get tested and stay at home if you have any symptoms.


Testing for coronavirus has two goals:

  1. Detecting and containing the virus
    The municipal health service (GGD) tests people who have symptoms, people who have been in close contact with an infected person, and people returning from a high-risk region. If someone tests positive for coronavirus, measures can be taken to prevent further spread.

  2. Enabling society to reopen step by step
    In the coming period, testing will be stepped up so that more restrictions can safely be lifted and social activities can gradually resume. Pilots are currently being carried out. Pre-admission tests are being studied to see in which sectors they can be used to ease restrictions.

Testing can also help increase the safety of people who can’t work from home because of the nature of their job. And testing can allow on-site learning to safely begin again, for instance in higher education. Preventive testing can also be used to make primary and secondary schools safer.