After an emergency meeting of ministers and health experts on Saturday afternoon, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has announced that the Netherlands will – once again – carry out end of year celebrations under a strict lockdown.
Speaking in a press conference after the meeting, Rutte said that imposing another period of confinement was “unavoidable” in light of the surge in infections driven by the Omicron variant. The new measures will come into effect on Sunday 19 December.
Not only will the new measures see the closure of all non-essential shops, bars and restaurants, gyms and other public venues, people will no longer be able to welcome more than two guests per household (or four for holidays such as Christmas and New Year’s Eve). These measures will remain in place until at least 14 January 2022.
Schools and extra-curricular activities will remain closed until at least 9 January. Earlier in the week, the Netherlands had already announced that winter holidays for primary schools would begin earlier than usual.
In addition to the tougher domestic decisions, from Wednesday 22 December there will be tighter limits on entering the country for countries outside the Schengen zone. Even those who are fully vaccinated will now have to present both a negative PCR test no more than 48 hours old and a negative rapid test taken within 24 hours.
Unvaccinated travellers from certain countries, such as the UK, will need to carry out a quarantine. Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge has said that he would like this measure to apply to those who are vaccinated as well.
All events apart from funerals and weekly markets selling groceries (as opposed to annual festive markets) will now be closed.
Non-professional sports events will be cancelled. Professional events may take place but without spectators. This means that Holland’s biggest football fixture between Feyenoord (Rotterdam) and Ajax Amsterdam will go ahead this afternoon, but not in the presence of supporters.
Health experts predict that the Omicron variant will become the dominant strain in the Netherlands by the end of the year. The Dutch Government will evaluate the health situation on 3 January.