Dutch govt orders partial lockdown to curb new Covid infections

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has announced on Friday a partial lockdown of three weeks, with restaurants, bars and essential shops having to close at 8 p.m. starting from Saturday, amid efforts to combat mounting Covid-19 infections.

“The Outbreak Management Team (OMT) has advised us to reduce the number of contacts between people on short notice,” Rutte told a press conference on Friday, referring to a panel of experts advising on the Covid-19 situation. “We need a hard knock for a few weeks.”

“The virus is everywhere, in the entire country, in all sectors and among all ages. So tonight we have an unpleasant message with far-reaching decisions,” Xinhua news agency quoted the Prime Minister as saying.

The new measures will go into effect from Saturday until December 3.

One of the most important new measures is that catering, restaurants, bars and essential shops, such as supermarkets, pet stores and drugstores have to be closed from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. local time.

Non-essential shops and services such as clothing stores, contact professions such as the hairdresser and casinos have to be closed from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. local time.

In addition, the Dutch government made it mandatory again to keep a 1.5-meter social distance in those places where no coronavirus entry pass, a Covid-19 certificate with a negative test result, proof of vaccination or proof of recovery, is required. If no corona entry pass is required, a mouth mask is mandatory.

In the catering industry, a coronavirus entry pass and a permanent seat are required.

Also from Saturday, no audience is allowed anymore at sports events, both professional and amateur. This is a hard blow for the Dutch sports industry.

For instance, the sold-out FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier of Tuesday in Rotterdam between the Netherlands and Norway will then be played in an empty stadium.

The government also tightened the advice to work from home to “work at home, unless there is really no other option,” and the maximum number of guests to receive at home per day will be reduced to four. If a housemate is infected, he or she has to go into isolation and all other, vaccinated and unvaccinated, housemates must be quarantined.

Earlier on Friday, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) reported 16,287 new positive tests over the past 24 hours, which is only a little less than the amount of 16,364 new Covid-19 infections reported on Thursday, the highest number since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

The number of positive coronavirus tests on average over the past seven days increased to 13,100, which is 49 percent more than the seven days before. A total of 32 COVID-19 patients deceased over the past 24 hours. Over the past seven days, the RIVM registered an average of 25 deaths a day, compared to 19 deaths a day a week earlier.

“Fortunately, the vast majority of us are vaccinated,” Rutte said.

“Otherwise the misery in hospitals would have been incredible. However, the pressure on hospitals is too high anyway.”

According to the RIVM, now 87.9 per cent of all Dutch people over 18 have received at least one vaccination, and 84.4 per cent are fully vaccinated.

The booster campaign for people aged 80 and older, adult residents of healthcare institutions and healthcare employees with patient contact will start from Nov. 19. This means that these people can receive a booster vaccine on top of the vaccinations they received before, to maintain the level of protection against serious illness.

“This is a cry from the heart,” Rutte added.

“This is an urgent appeal to all of you to think about whether we can do something extra, a little more, a little better, at home, at school, at work, in the shop. The measures only work if we all participate.”