THE HAGUE — The Dutch government is expected to announce on Saturday a “strict” Christmas lockdown that would see everything but essential stores close amid fears over the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant, Dutch media reported.
The government is meeting on Saturday with its health experts who have recommended the closure of all non-essential shops, schools, bars, restaurants and other public venues.
Health ministry spokesperson Axel Dees told Reuters there would be a government press conference to announce new measures at 7 p.m. (1800 GMT). He did not comment on the types of measures that would be announced.
In the city center of Leiden some twenty kilometers outside of The Hague, people flocked to the main shopping street to get last minute gift shopping done.
Some stores, like toy stores and luxury skin care and cosmetics shops, had lines outside.
“It’s normally busy before Christmas but this much busier than usual,” Ali Windster the manager of a cosmetics shop told Reuters.
Carla Nekeman was at the counter stocking up on cosmetics.
“This lockdown sucks, I am getting a lot of the stuff I need that I can’t get in the supermarket. I’ll have to stand in line everywhere,” Nekeman said.
Already on Tuesday the government ordered that the 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. closure of bars, restaurants and most stores, introduced in late November, would continue until Jan. 14.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte said then that Omicron could be the dominant coronavirus variant in the Netherlands by January.
On Friday the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) reported 15,433 new COVID-19 cases, down around 25% from a week earlier – but still above the peak of any previous wave.
The feared new wave of Omicron infections would further burden the country’s strained healthcare system which is already postponing most routine care and canceling all but urgent operations in order to cope with COVID-19 patients.