Europe

Netherlands to ease COVID-19 restrictions - report

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A general view of a largely deserted Dutch urban centre is seen as the country enters into its third day of lockdown, in Den Bosch, Netherlands December 21, 2021. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

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AMSTERDAM, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Coronavirus restrictions in the Netherlands will be eased from Saturday despite a wave of new infections due to the Omicron variant, Dutch media reported on Thursday.

Non-essential stores, hairdressers and gyms will be allowed to reopen for a limited number of customers, broadcasters NOS and RTL said, citing government sources. Students will be welcomed back to their colleges and universities.

Bars, restaurants, theatres, museums and other public places will remain closed.

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The government will decide formally on the changes on Friday.

Public places, except essential stores, have been shut since mid-December as hospitals struggled to deal with a wave of COVID-19 patients, caused by the Delta variant of the virus. read more

Hospital numbers have since improved, but are expected to rise again in the coming weeks as new infections have jumped to record levels since Omicron became the dominant variant.

The improved situation in hospitals increased pressure on the government to ease restrictions, especially from shopkeepers in areas close to the German and Belgian borders, who said customers now went abroad for their shopping.

Local authorities in the south and east of the Netherlands this week said they would not intervene if shops chose to ignore orders to close.

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Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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