The Netherlands has begun to ease its COVID-19 restrictions by reopening some of the sectors that were forced to close in December due to  the emergence of the Omicron variant.

As of Saturday, January 15 a number of non-essential businesses have reopened including retail and gyms, while sporting and cultural activities can resume. Hotels remain open but many places are closed until at least the next COVID-19 lockdown review on January 25.

What's open in the Netherlands?

On Saturday, the Dutch government began to roll back some of the lockdown curbs that were introduced in mid-December to slow the spread of COVID-19. Among the places that are now open are non-essential shops, hair salons and gyms, but they are required to close at 5pm. People must wear face masks and the number of customers must be limited.

Hotels are open and guests can check in but some services, such as dining, remain limited. Hotels can serve guests food and drinks in their rooms, but hotel restaurants and bars are shut for dine-in services.

Essential shops like grocery shops and pharmacies are open until 8pm.

What's closed in the Netherlands?

The hospitality sector is pretty much locked down with restaurants, cafes and bars closed except for take-away service. Nightclubs closed until at least January 25. Theaters, cinemas and museums are temporarily closed too. The Van Gogh Museum said it will reopen on January 26, the Rijksmuseum on February 1, while the Anne Frank House is "closed until further notice".

Read more: Should I visit the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam?

What other restrictions are in place?

The Dutch government has tightened restrictions on mask wearing and they are now required in places where physical distancing (1.5 meters) is impossible. "This now also applies at busy outdoor places such as shopping streets," the government said. "People are now advised to wear a disposable face mask. The government advises against wearing fabric masks and homemade masks."

When meeting outdoors, people are advised not to meet in groups of more than four people (aged 13 and over), and are asked to do a self-test before meeting people indoors.

People line up outside a shop selling cookies on December 19, 2021 in Amsterdam ahead of the new Christmas lockdown
People line up outside a cookie shop ahead of the Netherlands' new national lockdown © Getty Images

Can I travel to the Netherlands?

The Netherlands has kept its borders open throughout lockdown but rules vary depending on your point of departure. People traveling from a "safe" EU country or region can show proof of vaccination or a negative test result. Currently no countries are on the "safe" list. People traveling from a "high-risk" EU country must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result and take a test upon arrival.

People coming from a country outside the EU that the Netherlands deems "very high risk" such as the UK must show proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test result and quarantine for 10 days. The US is considered "high risk" and travelers may enter if they are fully vaccinated or qualify for one of the EU Entry Ban Exemption Categories. If you qualify and you can’t show proof of vaccination, you must be able to show a negative COVID-19 test result. You can see the full list of entry rules on the government's website.

Why is the Netherlands in lockdown?

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said the lockdown measures were "unavoidable" when the Netherlands locked down on December 18. With Omicron spreading rapdily, the Dutch government wanted to accelerate its booster campaign and remove some of the burden from the healthcare system. "The spread of the Omicron variant must be slowed as soon as possible in order to ensure healthcare services remain available to all," Rutte said in a statement in December.

When will lockdown end?

The government plans to review lockdown measures again on Saturday, January 25 and it is expected more restrictions will be lifted by then.

For more information on COVID-19 and travel, check out Lonely Planet's Health Hub.

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This article was first published Dec 20, 2021 and updated Jan 17, 2022.

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