Thursday 20 January 2022

Dutch set to announce new lockdown, press conference at 7pm Saturday

A closed cafe in Amsterdam. Photo: DutchNews.nl

Prime minister Mark Rutte has called a press conference on Saturday evening to announce tough new measures to brake the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

Rutte and health minister Hugo de Jonge will be joined by Jaap van Dissel, head of the public health institute RIVM, at the 7pm meeting, broadcaster NOS reported.

Ministers are meeting regional safety board chiefs on Saturday morning and will take a final decision about what measures are to be taken in the afternoon.

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.

De Jonge and 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.

Van Dissel 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 earlier this week.

Protection

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 who wants one will have had a booster vaccination by mid January.

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