The Netherlands will lift almost all its restrictions against COVID-19 by February 25 as cases and hospitalisations fall, the health minister has said.
Bars, restaurants and nightclubs will go back to pre-pandemic opening hours and social distancing and face masks will no longer be obligatory in most places.
However, visitors will need to show proof of either vaccination, a recent recovery from COVID-19 or a negative coronavirus test.
The Dutch government had imposed some of Europe’s toughest restrictions in December after a surge in Omicron cases but has since been lifting them in stages.
“The country will open again,” Health Minister Ernst Kuipers told a news conference on Tuesday.
“We will go back to normal closing times we had before corona, you don’t have to keep 1.5 metres away any more,” he added.
“Masks are obligatory only on public transport and in the airport. Keeping your distance and wearing a mask remain sensible, but there is no obligation,” he also said.
Kuipers warned however that the pandemic was “not over” and that vulnerable people still had to take care.
“We have just passed the peak [of new cases], that is why we insist we all should remain careful,” he said.
The health minister took office as part of Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s new government in January and quickly signalled that he wanted to start getting society back to normal.
The Netherlands suffered two spates of rioting in 2021 over coronavirus restrictions, with police shooting and injuring several protesters in Rotterdam in November.