The health experts responsible for advising the Dutch government on measures to control the spread of the coronavirus have called for the closure of all sectors in the country, with the exception of essential shops such as supermarkets and pharmacies.
The appeal comes as much of the continent sees infections linked to the highly-infectious new Omicron variant rise. The Netherlands already has relatively strict measures in place to deal with the fourth coronavirus wave fuelled by the Delta variant. At present, hospitality venues such as bars and restaurants, events, cinemas, theatres, and non-essential shops must all close at 5 PM.
The measures have already led to widespread protests in the Netherlands, with many frustrated by the ban on social gatherings that have sharply curtailed many public activities. This latest recommendation by the Dutch experts has yet to be acted on with new measures but was reported by the Dutch media agency ANP.
The Dutch government is due to meet on Saturday to discuss this latest report by the expert advisors. Prime Minister Mark Rutte has already indicated that he is not optimistic about the progression of the health situation, especially in light of the new Omicron variant which comes as healthcare services across Europe have been struggling to cope with the Delta strain.
Speaking on Friday, Dutch health minister Hugo de Jonge said that the Dutch Government was very worried about the new variant and “If needed, we will use all measures at our disposal to prevent the spread of infections.”
Belgium has yet to decide on how its coronavirus strategy will evolve after the most recent measures were introduced two weeks ago. However, as neighbouring countries such as the Netherlands and France double down efforts to prevent the virus spread, it is unlikely that current restrictions will be relaxed at the next Consultative Committee, due to take place next Wednesday 22 December.