(Bloomberg) -- The Dutch government eased the strict lockdown that has been in place since last month amid a drop in fatalities and intensive-care admissions.

The announcement came even as infections continued to rise, reaching a record 35,521 on Friday, according to government data. 

Non-essential shops are set to re-open in the Netherlands from Saturday, with a closing time of 5 p.m. Hairdressers and other contact professions will be allowed to reopen but restaurants, cinemas, museums, theaters and concert halls will remain closed. 

“Pressure is mounting from all sides to ease the measures and that is very understandable,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Friday at a news conference in The Hague. “There are still great uncertainties and that’s why we can’t reopen everything at once and I hope that there is understanding for this.” 

Health Minister Ernst Kuipers advised the use of masks when in close contact with people. 

On Dec. 19, the government introduced a strict lockdown to stem a surge in coronavirus infections caused by the spread of the omicron variant. The country allowed only supermarkets and essential shops to stay open. Primary and secondary schools reopened on Monday. Higher education will also resume starting Saturday.

Data show weekly average in ICU admissions dropped by 65% from last month’s peak to 19.7 on Jan. 10. The seven-day average of fatalities decreased by 82% from December’s high to 11.1 on Friday. The percentage of people aged 18 and over who have had their booster vaccination rose to 49.6% on Wednesday.


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