Netherlands goes into strict lockdown for Christmas

European countries have been tightening restrictions in a bid to contain the Omicron variant, but now, the Netherlands is going even further.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced a strict lockdown Saturday that will cover the Christmas and New Year holidays.

“The Netherlands is again shutting down. That is unavoidable because of the fifth wave that is coming at us with the Omicron variant. Omicron is spreading even faster than we feared and so we must act now to prevent as much of the worst as possible."

The lockdown starts Sunday, closing all non-essential shops and services such as restaurants and museums, until mid-January. Schools will be shut until at least January 9th.

In addition, the government is recommending that households receive no more than two visitors.

Upon hearing the announcement, the Dutch flocked to stores to fit in some last-minute shopping before the lockdown takes effect. This tourist visiting Nijmegen said, “It's important to be careful all together. If a lockdown is needed to do so, fine for me."

The strict new measures follow a nighttime lockdown imposed late last month. That resulted in a drop in infections from record levels. But since the Omicron variant was first found in the Netherlands three weeks ago, cases have surged.

More than 85% of Dutch adults are vaccinated. But fewer than 9% of adults have had a booster shot. That’s one of the lowest levels in Europe.

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