The Netherlands on Sunday began an “unavoidable” lockdown that will last through Christmas to help tackle a COVID-19 surge caused by the emergence of the Omicron variant.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the shut-down on Saturday evening, ordering most essential stores, as well as restaurants, hairdressers, gyms, museums and other public places to close until at least Jan. 14.
“The Netherlands is again shutting down. That is unavoidable because of the fifth wave that is coming at us with the Omicron variant,” Rutte said at a news conference.
Under the rules, people are urged to stay home as much as possible and households are only permitted to have two guests at a time.
Rutte acknowledged that the lockdown will interfere with holiday plans and business.
“I can hear the whole of the Netherlands sighing,” Rutte said. “All this, exactly one week before Christmas. Another Christmas that is completely different from what we want. Very bad news again for all those businesses and cultural institutions that rely on the holidays.”
But the prime minister insisted that failure to impose the shut-down would likely lead to “an unmanageable situation in hospitals.”
The head of the Dutch public health institute, Jaap van Dissel, said that it was a preventative move that would “buy time” for more people to get booster shots as well as allow healthcare systems to prepare for a surge in cases.
The government said that it will accelerate its booster campaign, with plans to administer the extra shots to everyone over the age of 60 before the end of the month.
Though more than 85% of Dutch adults are vaccinated, fewer than 9% have so far had a booster shot, one of the lowest rates in Europe.
With Post wires