Netherlands enters new nationwide lockdown to curb Omicron spread

The Netherlands has entered into a tough lockdown to curb the spread of Omicron, with non-essential shops, bars, restaurants, and other public places to close.

Schools will also shut from Monday, and the lockdown will run until at least 14 January, Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced.

He said it was “unavoidable because of the fifth wave caused by the Omicron variant that is bearing down on us”.

While the terms of the latest restrictions have not been fully detailed, local media reports that it means that hairdressers and gyms will also shut their doors, and it will be enforced until 14 January.

A quiet Amsterdam street after a day full of Christmas shopping. Pic: AP© Associated Press A quiet Amsterdam street after a day full of Christmas shopping. Pic: AP

Shops, bars, and restaurants in the country are already under a 5pm to 5am curfew, which was introduced at the end of last month.

Earlier, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) reported a total of more than 2.9 million COVID cases since the start of the pandemic with 20,420 reported deaths.

The institute also reported 14,616 new infections across 24 hours.

Elsewhere in Europe, worried ministers in France, Cyprus, and Austria have tightened travel restrictions, while Paris has also cancelled its New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Denmark has closed theatres, concert halls, amusement parks and museums over the Christmas period, and Germany’s regional health ministers have urged the national government on Saturday to introduce tougher rules on people arriving from the UK.

Will the UK follow with more restrictions?

It comes as pressure mounts on minsters in England to impose similar curbs, as Omicron continues to surge.

Restrictions elsewhere in Europe could serve as a precursor to events in the UK, after government advisers said that a touch circuit breaker may be needed to protect hospitals.

France has already taken action against Britons, banning travellers from the UK from entering the country without a compelling reason (such as visiting family).

Government scientists want time for the booster rollout to get needles in the arms of more people and buy some time to slow the spread of COVID-19, after daily cases jumped up to record levels this week.

The World Health Organisation reported on Saturday that the Omicron variant has been detected in 89 countries, and COVID-19 cases involving the variant are doubling every 1.5 to 3 days in places with community transmission and not just infections acquired abroad.

Omicron’s “substantial growth advantage” over the Delta variant means it is likely to soon overtake Delta as the dominant form of the virus in countries where the new variant is spreading locally, the UN health agency said.


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