A rise in cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant has forced yet another country to tighten security during the holidays. The Netherlands will enforce a strict lockdown over Christmas and New Year to contain the very contagious virus, Prime Minister Rutte said on Saturday. From Sunday to January 14, all non-essential shops and services, such as restaurants, hairdressers, museums, and gyms, will be closed. Until at least January 9, schools will remain closed.
‘The Netherlands is shutting down again. The fifth wave is coming our way with the Omicron variant,’ Rutte said in a televised news conference. Among the other measures proposed are a restriction on the number of visitors per household, as well as limiting outdoor gatherings to no more than two people. The failure to act now would likely lead to ‘an unmanageable situation in hospitals’, which have already scaled back regular care to accommodate COVID-19 patients’, Rutte said.
After the introduction of a nighttime lockdown late last month, infection rates in the Netherlands have decreased from record levels in recent weeks. While the country was already struggling with a wave of Coronavirus infections, the Omicron variant arrived. There has been a surge in the number of cases of COVID-19 since it was first found in the Netherlands three weeks ago, and hospitals are dealing with a high number of patients in their wards, near the highest levels this year.
According to Dutch infectious disease expert Jaap van Dissel, Omicron is expected to become the dominant strain of the virus between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Despite the fact that more than 85% of Dutch adults are vaccinated, fewer than 9% of adults have had a booster shot, one of the lowest rates in Europe. According to the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) on Saturday, there have been over 2.9 million cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began, and 20,420 deaths have been reported. In the past 24 hours, 14,616 new infections have been reported.