Netherlands to allow small crowds at football matches, theaters this month

The Dutch government announced on Tuesday that it has given its approval to expand the number of events where a limited audience is permitted to attend as part of a series of experiments to see what can be safely reopened in the Netherlands without causing a spike in new coronavirus infections. Additionally, zoos, theme parks, the Keukenhof, museums and other places where guests continuously move through an attraction will be allowed to take part in the tests.

Visitors will be allowed entrance only if they can show proof of a negative coronavirus test. Event sizes range from just 20 at some smaller hotel conference rooms, up to 7,500 for the Ajax-AZ football match at the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam on April 24. The National Opera and Ballet can host up to 1,600 audience members, the 3FM Awards at TivoliVredenburg can have a thousand people in attendance, and outdoor locations like zoos, theme parks and the Keukenhof will be able to welcome several thousand.

Essentially, those events and organizations which do not require special permits can be held throughout the country over a maximum of three consecutive days in April, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said in a letter to Parliament. By making the duration three days at maximum, the top Dutch football leagues Eredivisie and Keuken Kampioen Divisie can welcome an audience for one entire round each.

“Although the epidemiological situation is still very precarious, the government believes it is justified to carry out these pilots,” De Jonge wrote. “The combination of the scale of the activities, the limited total size, pre-testing and strict enforcement of all basic rules mean that we can do this responsibly.” If successful, the program will be expanded in May, pending the number of coronavirus infections, test capacity, and feasibility to maintain the coronavirus restrictions like a 1.5-meter social distance.

The test program is meant to determine the visitor’s experience at the event, but also in obtaining the access testing. The government also wants to know how easily organizers can test the validity of negative test certificates, and whether the IT systems and apps function properly.

Guests will also be required to register for the event or activity in advance. Organizers will be able to provide more information about access testing and obtaining a negative result certificate. A lengthy list of many events allowed to participate in the pilot program was published on the Dutch government website.

“The measures are tough for all of us and it has been going on for so long now. That is why we are constantly looking at what can be made possible within the necessary constraints,” De Jonge said. “We are convinced that with access tests we can open up activities more carefully and responsibly than before, so that society can reopen step by step.”