Dutch face prospect of longer lockdown amidst rising COVID-19 infections


Posted at Apr 13 2021 11:18 PM

A closed restaurant terrace is seen as the Netherlands face the prospect of extended lockdown amidst rising infections, Amsterdam, Netherlands, April 13, 2021. Eva Plevier, Reuters

AMSTERDAM - The Dutch government is expected to extend most pandemic lockdown restrictions including a nighttime curfew in an announcement later on Tuesday, due to stubbornly high COVID-19 infection rates that are putting pressure on hospitals.

The office of Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Sunday "it is still too early" to allow more people to gather in public places.

Authorities had hoped to reopen outdoor cafes and restaurants next week, but roughly six months after they shut, infection rates remain high and intensive care admissions are on the rise.

Current measures in the Netherlands, which has seen 1.3 million coronavirus cases and more than 16,700 deaths, include the first nighttime curfew since World War Two and a ban on public gatherings of more than two people.

Rutte is due to announce his cabinet's latest decision during a televised news conference at 1900 CET (1700 GMT).

Nearly 70% of Dutch intensive care beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients, leading to warnings from care professionals that a third wave may not yet have peaked.

At the same time, opinon polls show support for lockdown measures waning, in particular a ban on outdoor dining spaces at restaurants and cafes. Hospitality associations and mayors from major cities have argued it has little point, citing large numbers of people gathering in parks.

"If the weather is getting a bit warmer people will get together in the parks or next to the canals, so actually if you open the terraces it would be more controlled," said bar owner Omar Abadi, 45, in Amsterdam.

As of April 4, roughly 12% of Dutch people had received at least one COVID-19 shot, according to Our World in Data.

The Dutch National Institute for Health (RIVM) said on Tuesday new cases rose by 6 percent in the week through April 13 to 51,240, resuming an upward trend in place since January.