The Hague: The Dutch government has announced a stricter lockdown out of fear for the rise of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in the country.
“I stand here with a gloomy mind,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said at a press conference on Saturday December 18 in the Hague. “The Netherlands is going into lockdown again.”
“That is inevitable. Omicron is spreading even faster than we feared. That is the complicated story we have to tell tonight,” Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.
The new lockdown will take effect from 5 a.m. Sunday morning local time and will remain in effect until January 14, 2022. According to Rutte, a hard lockdown is inevitable “because of the fifth wave that is approaching us with Omicron.”
Only essential shops like supermarkets, medical contact professions and car garages remain open, but all other shops and all education, the catering industry, restaurants, museums, theaters and zoos must close.
Jaap van Dissel, the boss of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and member of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT), which advises the government, was present at the press conference to explain his worries, although the infection figures are in decline with 14,742 positive tests from Friday to Saturday.
He expressed the expectation that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus will be dominant in the Netherlands shortly after Christmas.
On December 14, Rutte had announced the extension of the current measures, an evening lockdown between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m. local time for non-essential shops, while primary schools had to close one week earlier before the Christmas holidays. Only four days later he concluded that this will not be enough to stop Omicron.