Netherlands goes into tough lockdown from Sunday to curb Omicron

Netherlands goes into tough lockdown from Sunday to curb Omicron

Cases of the variant have surged since it was first found in the Netherlands three weeks ago

The Dutch government says it is imposing a tough nationwide lockdown in an attempt to rein in sharply rising levels of infections with the Omicron coronavirus mutation.

Schools, universities, and all non-essential stores, bars and restaurants will be closed until Jan.14 starting from Sunday, caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.

"The Netherlands is going into lockdown again from tomorrow,” Rutte said on Saturday. He said the move was "unavoidable because of the fifth wave caused by the omicron variant that is bearing down on us.”

Rutte says the government's new order builds on an existing partial lockdown already in force that requires bars, restaurants and other public gathering places such as cinemas and theaters to close at 5pm.

A failure to act now would likely lead to "an unmanageable situation in hospitals," which have already scaled back regular care to make space for COVID-19 patients, Rutte said.

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

Cases of the variant have surged since it was first found in the Netherlands three weeks ago, while hospitals are struggling with the large numbers of COVID-19 patients in their wards, near the highest levels this year.

Netherlands goes into tough lockdown from Sunday to curb Omicron
Omicron has doubling time of 1.5 to 3 days, will outpace Delta in community transmission: WHO

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

While more than 85% of the Dutch adult population is vaccinated, fewer than 9% of adults have had a booster shot, one of the lowest rates in Europe.

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

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