13 (MNA) – Caretaker Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has announced a three-week partial lockdown amid surging COVID-19 cases in the Netherlands, saying his government wants to “deliver a hard blow to the virus”.
The lockdown that begins Saturday night is the first to start in Western Europe since a new wave of infections began surging across parts of the continent, Al-Jazeera reported.
Under the lockdown, restaurants and supermarkets will have to close at 8 pm (19:00 GMT), professional sports matches will be played in empty stadiums and people are being urged to work from home as much as possible. Stores selling non-essential items will have to close at 6 pm.
“Tonight we have a very unpleasant message with very unpleasant and far-reaching decisions,” Rutte said on Friday.
Speaking about the deteriorating situation in Europe at a press conference earlier Friday, Dr Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization (WHO) head of emergencies, said that “quite frankly, some countries are in such a difficult situation now that they’re going to find it hard not to put in place restrictive measures, at least for a short period of time, to reduce the intensity of transmission.”
Rutte also said that social distancing is returning. Masks are already widely mandated, including in shops and public transport.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said that the government is also working on legislation to restrict access in some “high-risk” locations and events to people who can demonstrate they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 – and not allow people who have tested negative. Austria and parts of Germany already have similar restrictions in place.
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 nearly 85 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, largely ended lockdown restrictions at the end of September.