Netherlands to impose strict five-week lockdown to battle Covid-19

Non-essential shops will be shuttered until at least Jan 19. PHOTO: REUTERS

AMSTERDAM (BLOOMBERG) - The Dutch government is imposing stricter lockdown measures for five weeks in an effort to reverse a jump in daily cases and hospital admissions.

Non-essential shops will be shuttered until at least Jan 19, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a televised speech on Monday (Dec 14), the first time that's happened since the pandemic began.

Publicly accessible spaces such as zoos, amusement parks and cinemas will also close, while supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open, Mr Rutte said.

The new measures will come on top of a partial lockdown in place since the middle of October that forced bars and restaurants to halt operations.

While daily numbers retreated for a while, they have risen steeply in recent days, prompting the Dutch government to follow neighbouring Germany in taking tougher measures.

As part of the tighter restrictions aimed at offering relief to the nation's health system, schools and universities will have to move lessons online from Wednesday.

With the new measures, "everything is aimed at keeping the number of contacts to a minimum," Mr Rutte said in the address from his office in The Hague.

The speech was the second time since the start of the outbreak that Mr Rutte has addressed the nation on TV - a rarity in Dutch politics. While the premier was speaking, a small group of protesters could be heard outside his office.

The pandemic has killed more than 10,000 people in the Netherlands, while the tally of confirmed patients since the start of the outbreak stands at almost 622,000.

The number of coronavirus patients in hospitals rose by 105 in the past day, taking the total to 1,872.

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