The Netherlands entered a strict new lockdown Sunday due to fears over the Omicron coronavirus variant, and the UK’s health minister wouldn’t rule out further restrictions, as Europe braces for a surge in Covid-19 infections over the usually busy festive period.
Indoor gatherings in the Netherlands will now be limited to a maximum of two guests per household until at least mid-January, Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced Saturday. That number is extended slightly around Christmas and New Year’s Eve to four guests.
Non-essential shops, hospitality venues and cultural institutions will also be closed, while schools will remain shut until at least January 9.
In a televised address, Rutte said the lockdown was “unavoidable because of the fifth wave that is coming at us with the Omicron variant,” Reuters reported.
Failure to act now would likely lead to “an unmanageable situation in hospitals,” Rutte added.
The Netherlands had already been battling a fresh wave of Covid-19 cases before the Omicron strain reached its shores last month. Some experts are now predicting it will become the dominant variant in the country before the end of the year.
Elsewhere in Europe, there is a looming sense of dread that despite the vaccine rollout, this year’s Christmas will look a lot like 2020 as Omicron spreads at a phenomenal rate in parts of the continent.
SOURCE: London (CNN)