The Netherlands is the first in the EU to re-enter the lock market before the rise of Omicron

The Netherlands became the first country EU country to rejoin a strict nationwide lockdown, in response to the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant that will crash the economy until at least mid-January.

The harsh new restrictions that close all bars, restaurants, non-essential shops, cinemas and gyms will begin Sunday morning and last until at least January 14. Professional sporting events will take place without crowds and homes can invite up to four guests over the Christmas period, which will be reduced to two after the holiday.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told journalists on Saturday that the measures were “inevitable” in the face of a variant that is spreading “even faster” than expected by the authorities. the authorities. “We have to intervene now to prevent it from getting worse,” said Rutte.

The lockdown, the toughest imposed by the Dutch government since 2020, was announced following an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday and following advice from the country’s health authority that a lockdown “hard” is urgently needed.

The Netherlands has a mixed record in handling pandemics. Initially, the government opted for a lighter measure, known as a “smart lock”, during the first phase of the virus in 2020. But this year, the government was forced to take some of the toughest measures. seen anywhere in the EU in the face of increased cases. rate and number of hospital admissions. Rutte’s government came under fire for lifting nearly all restrictions in September, leading to an uptick in infections in the fall.

In the past 24 hours, the Netherlands recorded 14,742 positive cases of Covid-19, continuing the downward trend over the past month. This is down from a peak of more than 24,000 recorded in November, but health authorities have advised that more stringent measures are needed to contain the highly contagious strain of Omicron.

The Dutch health authority (RIVM) estimates that the Omicron strain will become the main cause of infections before the end of the year. As of today, the new strain of bacteria accounts for only a “small percentage of infections,” said Jaap van Dissel, director of disease control at RIVM. . . but we know that share is going to go up.”

The government is also increasing access to booster shots after falling behind its EU peers in injecting extra doses that health experts say are crucial in maintaining some capacity. immunity to the virus. The Netherlands is also behind most EU countries in immunizing people, starting its vaccination program in January of this year.

Restrictive measures have been met with protests and street violence in recent months, particularly during two nights of riots in Rotterdam last month.

Rutte on Saturday urged the country to show solidarity: “We’ve proven in the past that we can solve a lot of things together. We will also get through this phase together. I am completely convinced of that,” he said.

https://www.ft.com/content/7264aae6-f228-4015-87ef-838c701b99bb The Netherlands is the first in the EU to re-enter the lock market before the rise of Omicron

Ian Walker

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