Dutch government orders 3-week partial lockdown amid virus outbreak

The Hague, Netherlands (AP) – Acting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced a three-week partial lockdown on Friday amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in the Netherlands, saying his government “wants to deal a hard blow to the virus.”

The lockdown that began on Saturday night is the first in Western Europe since a new wave of infections began in parts of the continent.

Under the lockdown, bars, restaurants and supermarkets will have to close at 8 pm (1900 GMT), professional sporting matches will be played in empty stadiums and people are being urged to work from home as much as possible. Shops selling non-essential items will have to close at 6 pm

“Tonight we have a very unpleasant message with many very unpleasant and far-reaching decisions,” Rutte said.

As Rutte noted, police in The Hague said they arrested several people protesting for setting off fireworks in a nearby street.

The Netherlands is not alone in taking measures to curb the rising coronavirus infection.

Earlier on Friday, Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schalenberg said his country would enforce a lockdown next week for unvaccinated people in two hard-hit regions and was ready to move forward with similar measures across the country.

From Monday, unvaccinated people in the regions of Upper Austria and Salzburg will only be allowed to leave home for specific essential reasons, such as buying groceries or going to the doctor.

Meanwhile, Germany’s Centers for Disease Control is urging people to cancel or avoid large events and reduce their contacts as the country’s coronavirus infection rate reaches new highs.

Speaking at a news conference earlier on Friday about the worsening situation in Europe, the World Health Organization’s head of emergencies Dr Michael Ryan said that “fairly frankly, some countries are now in such a difficult position that they are going to find it.” It is difficult not to take preventive measures, at least for a short time, to reduce the intensity of transmission.”

Rutte also said that social distancing is making a comeback. Masks are already widely mandated, including in shops and on public transport.

Health Minister Hugo de Jong said the government was also working on legislation to restrict access to people in some “high-risk” places and events who can demonstrate that they have been fully vaccinated. or have recovered from COVID-19 – and do not allow people who have tested negative. Austria and parts of Germany already have similar restrictions.

Separately, the government on Friday announced that it would launch a campaign to give booster shots of COVID-19 shots to older citizens and healthcare workers. The campaign was supposed to start in December but will now start next weekend.

News of a possible move ahead of the announcement sparked fury among bar owners and sports administrators early Friday.

The Dutch football federation and the top two professional leagues issued a statement expressing “great disappointment” over the expected lockdown and said football stadiums – which have strict COVID measures – are not a major source of infection.

“It looks like policy poverty,” the organizations said, adding that government officials “no longer know what to do.”

Root confirmed that the World Cup football qualifier between the Netherlands and Norway in Rotterdam on Tuesday will be played behind closed doors.

An organization representing bar and restaurant owners also slammed the government.

“Hospitality businesses are again being presented with the bill for defying government policy,” the group said in a statement.

On Thursday the country’s public health institute recorded 16,364 new positive tests in 24 hours – the highest number of any time during the pandemic that has killed more than 18,600 people in the Netherlands.

The country, where about 85% of adults are fully vaccinated, largely ended lockdown restrictions in late September.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic,

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