There is ‘very likely’ to be a press conference to announce tough new measures to combat the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus on Saturday evening, Dutch media are reporting.
Ministers are meeting regional safety board chiefs on Saturday morning and will take a final decision in the afternoon, RTL Nieuws reports. The press conference, if it goes ahead, will be at 7pm.
The government’s Outbreak Management Team has recommended a tough lockdown and the closure of all non-essential shops as well as cafes, schools, cinemas, museums and fitness centres.
It is up to ministers to decide what action to take, and according to RTL, some sectors may be spared closure.
Health minister Hugo de Jonge and prime minister Mark Rutte earlier made it clear they would not hesitate to impose more measures if the OMT thinks it necessary.
The cabinet had asked for its advice on how to combat the Omicron variant of coronavirus, which now accounts for a quarter of cases in Amsterdam.
Jaap van Dissel, head of the Dutch public health institute RIVM, estimates Omicron could lead to 600 hospital admissions a day, including 100 to 125 intensive care patients if fast action is not taken.
The Dutch campaign to give everyone a booster injection has now become a race against time to beat Omicron, Van Dissel said.
British research indicates that the booster provides 80% protection against becoming seriously ill with the Omicron variant, compared with 95% against Delta.
The Netherlands was one of the last countries in Europe to start a booster campaign and so far only 1.5 million people have had one.
Regional health board centres gave just over half a million booster doses in the past week, and 1.3 million appointments have been planned in so far for the coming seven days.
De Jonge has admitted that it is extremely busy at the regional health board vaccination centres but said capacity is being scaled up rapidly. ‘If you can’t [make an appointment], there will be new slots tomorrow and again the next day,’ he said on Friday.
The government hopes that everyone will have had a booster vaccination by mid January.
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