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Netherlands to Begin Easing COVID Restrictions


A mother and her child are reflected as they pass a mural by artist FAKE, titled "Super Nurse," paying tribute to all health care and medical professionals in times of the coronavirus, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, April 19, 2020.

The Dutch government Wednesday announced the first steps in relaxing its coronavirus containment restrictions, allowing elementary school children to return to their classrooms part time from May 11, but extending restrictions on large-scale events.

At a news briefing in the Hague, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said older children up to age 18 would also be allowed to take part in organized sports, but only while practicing social distancing and without official competitions.

FILE - Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaks at the end of an EU summit in Brussels, Feb. 21, 2020.
FILE - Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaks at the end of an EU summit in Brussels, Feb. 21, 2020.

At the same time, Rutte extended a ban on all large-scale events such as music festivals and professional football until Sept. 1, while bars and restaurants will remain shut until at least May 20.

The Netherlands has been in what Rutte calls an "intelligent lockdown" since mid-March that closed schools, restaurants, bars and museums but stopped short of ordering people in this nation of 17 million to stay home.

Instead, they were urged to act responsibly to slow the spread of the virus — to work from home, stay home as much as possible, and engage in social distancing if they venture outdoors.

As they are in other countries, the measures appear to be having an effect.

The official Dutch death toll was put at 3,916, but that only includes people who tested positive. Authorities say the true toll is higher. They reported 34,134 confirmed cases.

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