Tuesday, January 25

Less than a week before Christmas, the first day of “confinement” for the Dutch

The streets remained empty on Sunday a few days before Christmas in the center of The Hague, a few passers-by looking nostalgically at the windows of closed shops, on the first day of “containment” imposed on the Netherlands in the face of a new wave of Covid-19 and the spread of the Omicron variant.

Some restaurants, now completely without visitors, have put up a “take out” sign. But many establishments, such as bars and hair salons, have simply closed shop again.

The day before, nearly seven million television viewers watched Prime Minister Mark Rutte, in a “gloomy” mood, impose a new “containment” on the population. All non-essential stores, restaurants, bars, cinemas, museums and theaters have closed until January 14 and schools until at least January 9.

At the same time, the number of guests that people are allowed to receive in their homes is reduced to two, except for Christmas, as well as the day before and the day after this day of December 25, and for the New Year period, when it will be four. .

Outside, only gatherings of two people are allowed, with exceptions such as burials. But no restriction on movement has been decided.

– “Not already now” –

“I expected them to announce a new, stricter containment if the number of cases increased due to the variant” Omicron, Wil Lock, 68, told AFP. “But not already now,” she adds, while stressing “understand” that the health staff is exhausted.

Dax van Eijkeren, 26, also said he was surprised “at the speed to which confinement has returned”. “You do everything you can to support society a little and in the end everything is still on the wrong track,” laments this vaccinee, regretting not being able to finalize his Christmas shopping on Sunday as he had planned.

The day before, long queues had formed in front of the stores, many people having tried in extremis to buy their last gifts.

Dax and Wil were not the only ones to be surprised in the Netherlands, where the early closure of primary schools before Christmas had been announced four days earlier and the extension of already strict health restrictions compared to the rest of Europe. .

The measures are increasingly unpopular, with riots erupting in cities such as Rotterdam and The Hague for several nights in November. And on Sunday, Rotterdam police dispersed a group of “several dozen people” with water cannons near the stadium in this port city, just before the game between Ajax Amsterdam and Feyenoord, which was being played behind closed doors. 64 people were arrested.

The health restrictions that came into effect on November 28, including the closure of non-essential stores, bars and restaurants every day between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m., had however lowered the number of contaminations from recent record levels.

This country, where more than 86% of adults are vaccinated, had even recorded a slight decrease in hospital admissions of patients with Covid-19.

But the Dutch vaccination booster campaign was slow to start.

– “Completely different Christmas” –

Added to this are the many unknowns surrounding the Omicron variant, now in the minority but very contagious and which according to the head of the Dutch epidemic management team Jaap van Dissel will overtake the Delta variant to become dominant in the Netherlands. ‘here at the end of the year.

“The variant can bypass defenses acquired during previous infections or previous vaccinations, especially if it took place some time ago,” he said during the press conference on Saturday.

The scientist also warned that if it turns out that Omicron is making as sick as the Delta variant, the hospitalization rate could exceed that of the first wave of the epidemic in the Netherlands.

So looming “another Christmas that is completely different from what we would like,” admitted the head of government on Saturday.

“It’s especially the timing that is boring, just before the holidays,” said Daan Goris, 27, hoping the situation would improve quickly with the new restrictions.


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