Netherlands to enter strict Christmas lockdown


THE HAGUE, Dec. 18 (Reuters) – The Netherlands will be strictly locked down over the Christmas and New Years period in an attempt to contain the highly contagious variant of the Omicron coronavirus, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Saturday.

All non-essential businesses and services, including restaurants, hairdressers, museums and gyms, will be closed Sunday through January 14. All schools will be closed until at least January 9.

“The Netherlands is closing again. This is inevitable due to the fifth wave coming to us with the Omicron variant,” Rutte said in a televised press conference.

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Other measures include a recommendation that households receive no more than two visitors and that outdoor gatherings are also limited to a maximum of two people.

Failure to act now would likely lead to “an unmanageable situation in hospitals,” which have already cut back on regular care to make room for COVID-19 patients, Rutte said.

People are doing their Christmas shopping ahead of the expected Dutch government announcement of a “strict” Christmas lockdown to curb the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant, in downtown Nijmegen, the Netherlands, on December 18, 2021. REUTERS / Piroschka van de Wouw

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Infections in the Netherlands have fallen from record levels in recent weeks after the introduction of an overnight lockdown late last month. The Omicron variant arrived as the country was already battling a wave of coronavirus infections.

Cases of the variant have increased since its discovery in the Netherlands three weeks ago, as hospitals grapple with the large number of COVID-19 patients in their wards, near the highest levels this year.

Omicron is expected to become the most dominant variant of the virus in the Netherlands between Christmas and New Years Eve, said leading Dutch infectious disease expert Jaap van Dissel.

While over 85% of the Dutch adult population is vaccinated, less than 9% of adults have received a booster, one of the lowest rates in Europe.

On Saturday, the National Institute of Public Health (RIVM) reported a total of more than 2.9 million cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, with 20,420 deaths reported. There were 14,616 new infections reported in 24 hours.

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Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg and Bart Meijer; Writing by Anthony Deutsch Editing by Mark Potter, Catherine Evans and Frances Kerry

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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