The Dutch government has ordered a shutdown of non-essential services in response to the spread of the Omicron variant, said Prime Minister Mark Rutte at a press conference on Saturday.
Under the new measures, public venues like bars, sports halls, museums and nightlife will shut down starting Sunday and will remain closed until January 14. Take-out from restaurants will still remain possible and essential shops like supermarkets will remain open until 8 p.m.
The country’s outbreak management team forecasts that Omicron will become the dominant variant by the end of December, taking over from Delta. The country risks an overload of its intensive care capacity if action isn’t taken early, the health response team said. According to government data, daily new cases averaged close to 15,000 in the period December 8 and December 14.
Households will be limited to two visitors a day. That number is expanded to four for Christmas Eve and Day, Boxing day, and during New Year’s.
Schools will be closed at least until January 9, at which point the government will evaluate what action to take.
The World Health Organization said today that the evidence pointed to Omicron having a “substantial growth advantage” over the Delta variant that has been dominant up until now. In countries with community transmission, cases double every 1.5 to 3 days, the health authority said.
The U.K. is also considering further restrictions. The country recorded more than 90,000 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday in an outbreak propelled by the variant, which has been shown to side-step immunity granted by a normal course of vaccination.