The government of the Netherlands announced that starting on Monday, November 29, all bars and restaurants will be closed during night hours and non-essential stores will be closed from 5pm to 5am. Masks will be required in secondary schools, and everyone who can work from home is urged to do so.
Dutch government once again upped the pandemic restrictions, as the country is battling a record-breaking COVID-19 surge with national hospitals facing a ‘code black’ scenario.
Acknowledging that numbers of new cases of the deadly virus have been “high, higher, highest” on a daily basis, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said previous “small adjustments,” including the reintroduction of face masks, were not enough to stem the record-breaking COVID-19 wave.
Despite 85% of the country’s adult population being vaccinated, the surge in the Netherlands is said to be the worst in Western Europe.
For the past week, above 20,000 infections per day were registered, forcing official instructions to hospitals to postpone all non-emergency operations, including arrangements for cancer and heart disease patients. With more beds needed for COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, some ill people have been transferred for treatment in Germany.
Freeing wards and ICU beds for patients badly infected with coronavirus, the country’s healthcare system is preparing for a ‘code black’ scenario, in which doctors may be forced to choose who lives and dies, due to lack of physical resources to treat everyone who needs care. “Hospitals are already facing such difficult choices,” the chairman of a medical board in Rotterdam, Peter Langenbach said.
While the COVID-19 situation has been threatening to overwhelm the Dutch healthcare system this month, a newly discovered variant, the super-mutant Omicron, only adds to an already uneasy situation.
First detected in Botswana and South Africa, the B.1.1.529 strain of the coronavirus is now formally declared a new variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Growing fears of the Omicron variant promptly triggered global travel bans, including in the Netherlands, where flights from South Africa and several of its neighboring countries were barred on Friday. It comes alongside news of Covid-19 test results from passengers just recently arrived from South Africa to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. At least 61 of the 600 arrivals turned out to be positive for the virus.