The Netherlands will become the first Western European country to impose a partial lockdown since the summer, introducing new strict measures starting Saturday in the face of a record number of new Covid-19 infections.
The restrictions, announced by Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday, will last at least three weeks and will include the closure of bars, restaurants and essential shops starting at 8:00 p.m., with non-essential retail and services such as hairdressers to close. at 6:00 p.m.
Home gatherings would be limited to a maximum of four guests, all amateur and professional sporting events must be held behind closed doors, and working at home is recommended except in “absolutely unavoidable” circumstances, Rutte said.
“We must reduce the number of contacts and infections as quickly as possible,” Rutte said, calling the measures “unavoidable.” The health system was already under such severe pressure that knee, hip and even heart operations were postponed.
“Tonight we bring a very unpleasant message, with very unpleasant and far-reaching measures,” Rutte said.
“The virus is everywhere and must be fought everywhere. I want all Dutch citizens to ask themselves, can I do more? I can do better? We hoped that with vaccines we would not have to do this, but we see the same situation throughout Europe ”.
Schools, theaters and cinemas will remain open, as will conferences where the public sits, but public events such as fairs and exhibitions where the public can move are canceled as of 6pm on Saturday.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said the government will discuss legal changes next week to allow “exceptionally crowded” shops and hospitality venues to choose whether to accept only people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered, instead to also allow access to people. with a recent negative test.
The lockdown lasts longer than the 14 days recommended this week by the government’s outbreak management team and comes as the number of new infections reaches record levels in the Netherlands.
The country dropped most preventive measures at the end of September, although as cases began to increase, the government again forced the wearing of face masks in stores and other public places last weekend.
Hospitals in the southern province of Limburg warned this week that the entire health system was “paralyzed” in the worst affected region of the country, adding: “We are convinced that other parts of the Netherlands will soon follow.”
The Dutch public health institute announced the highest daily count of new infections in the country since the pandemic began on Thursday, recording 16,364 new positive tests in 24 hours, an increase of 3,688 from the previous day. Friday’s toll was only a minor fraction.
The Dutch football federation and the two main professional leagues expressed “great consternation” at the blockade, which they described as “political poverty”. They added that government officials “no longer know what to do.”
An organization representing the owners of bars and restaurants condemned the government. “Hotel companies are again coming forward with the bill for failing in government policy,” the group said in a statement.
Until last month, the government had insisted that the Netherlands’ comparatively high vaccination rate (69% of the population is double injected, against an EU average of 65.8%) would mean that it could relax restrictions. remaining for the end of the year.
But as a fourth wave accelerates in Europe, it is not the only one to reintroduce stricter controls. Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said on Friday that his country would implement a lockdown for unvaccinated people in two heavily affected regions next week, and appears ready to go ahead with similar measures across the country.
From Monday, unvaccinated people in the Upper Austria and Salzburg regions will only be able to leave home for specific necessary reasons, such as buying food or going to the doctor.
Germany, which has been reporting record daily rates of new infections On an average of seven days from the start of the week, you are also urging people to cancel or avoid major events and reduce their contacts.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism