ROTTERDAM, Netherlands

The Netherlands reported 189 new cases and 27 more deaths due to COVID-19 on Saturday.

The death toll is now up to 5,670, while the overall case count stands at 43,870, according to the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.

The number of patients admitted to hospitals increased by 45 to 11,538.

The Netherlands is among several European countries that have started easing lockdown restrictions.

Last week, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte outlined a four-month plan to phase out social restrictions if the virus remains under control.

The lifting of measures began on Monday, and will be expanded in stages through September.

Elementary schools, hairdressers, and libraries have reopened, while restaurants, cafes, cinemas, and cultural institutions will conditionally resume operations from June 1.

A maximum of 30 people, including staff, will be allowed at a time, and only if visitors are able to keep a distance of 1.5 meters (nearly 5 feet) from others.

Restrictions will be further eased between June 15 and Sept. 1.

Europe, along with the US and Russia, remains the worst-hit region in the pandemic, which has claimed nearly 309,000 lives in 188 countries and regions.

* Writing by Erdogan Cagatay Zontur

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