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Dutch leader warns against reopening

by The Associated Press | April 14, 2021 at 4:18 a.m.
FILE - In this file photo dated Friday, April 2, 2021, caretaker Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte leaves after surviving a no-confidence motion in parliament in The Hague, Netherlands. The Dutch government on Tuesday April 13, 2021, presented a roadmap for relaxing coronavirus lockdown measures, but caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte said it is still too early to relax the country’s months-long lockdown. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, FILE)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The Dutch government on Tuesday presented a road map for relaxing coronavirus lockdown measures, but caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte stressed that it is still too early to ease restrictions.

In a nationally televised news conference, Rutte said hospitals in the Netherlands are as crowded with covid-19 patients now as they were during the first wave of the pandemic last year and that it would be irresponsible to relax the country's monthslong lockdown now.

The government had previously said it hoped the first relaxation could have started April 21, but Rutte said that was too soon.

"The reality is that the end is in sight, the reality that society can reopen again in a responsible way. We will take the first step when the peak of the third wave has passed," Rutte said.

Earlier Tuesday, the Dutch public health institute said the number of new coronavirus infections rose 6% over the past week to 51,240, with the largest increase in positive tests recorded among children aged 13-17 years.

The increase comes despite the months-long tough lockdown in the Netherlands including a nighttime curfew, closed bars and restaurants and shuttered public institutions like museums and zoos.

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