The number of new coronavirus cases is still very high and there are still many COVID-19 patients in hospital. But the surge in infections caused by the Delta variant does appear to have passed its peak. This means the measures and our joint efforts to combat the virus are having a visible effect. But it is important to keep pushing back the virus as long as hospitals are still struggling to cope, and having to postpone non-COVID treatment and procedures. The new Omicron variant also gives cause for concern and demands a cautious approach. It is expected that this variant will become dominant in the Netherlands within a number of weeks, taking Delta’s place. At this time, experts are unsure about how easily the Omicron variant spreads, how effective the existing vaccines are against it, and to what extent it causes severe illness.
The government is therefore prolonging the measures introduced on 28 November, until at least Friday 14 January 2022. Primary schools, schools for special (primary) education, and out-of-school care facilities (BSO) will also be closed in the week before Christmas. BSO will be open during the regular Christmas break. Primary schools will reopen again on Monday 10 January 2022.
The situation will be reviewed on 14 January, or possibly at an earlier date if the Outbreak Management Team gains important new insights into the Omicron variant.
Dutch government extends evening lockdown until January 14
At the last press conference, Rutte and De Jonge announced a tightening of the Dutch restrictions in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 and Omicron. The so-called evening lockdown rules were due to lift on December 19, so before the Christmas holidays, but the latest update confirms that: the current restrictions will remain in place throughout the festive season.
This means the restrictions below will remain in effect until (at least) January 14.
Measures and urgent advice
- Everyone should stay at home as much as possible, and limit their number of contacts outside the home.
- Always stay 1.5 metres away from other people.
- Be careful when receiving visitors and visiting others:
- Receive no more than 4 visitors per day (not including children under 13) and limit visits to one a day.
- Do a self-test before visiting others or receiving visitors.
- People aged 70 years and over are advised to limit their contacts as much as possible, including with children under 13, and to observe 1.5 metre distancing.
- Face masks are required for everyone aged 13 and over on public transport and on platforms, at bus stops and stations, and when moving around schools or public indoor spaces such as shops, museums, restaurants and bars.
- Coronavirus entry passes are mandatory for everyone aged 13 and over at all locations where people are assigned seats, such as restaurants and bars, theatres, concert halls, museums and cinemas, and in indoor sports venues. At all these locations, people must stay 1.5 metres apart.
- Between 17.00 and 05.00 most locations must be closed and events are not permitted.
- Essential shops, such as supermarkets and chemists, can stay open until 20.00.
- Specific service providers, such as notaries, lawyers, mortgage advisors and medical health professionals, can be open for their normal opening hours.
- Amateur sports matches and training are not permitted between 17.00 and 05.00. Professional sports matches and training and professional artistic and cultural activities are permitted, even after 17.00. No spectators or audiences.
- At locations where there is a continuous flow of visitors, capacity is limited to 1 person per 5 square metres.
- In higher education the maximum group size is 75 people per room. In theatres and auditoriums up to 1,250 people are allowed at once.
- Work at home. If this is impossible: stay 1.5 metres apart at work.
Primary schools to close a week earlier because of Omicron variant
Primary schools and schools for special (primary) education will close the week before the Christmas holiday (in Dutch only). Out-of-school care facilities will also be closed during this week. Schools will be open to provide emergency care for vulnerable children and the children of key workers in crucial sectors (in Dutch only). Schools are not required to provide distance learning during this week.
Acceleration of booster campaign for all adults
Because of the Omicron variant everyone aged 18 and over will be invited to receive a booster vaccination by the second half of January. This can help increase protection against the new variant and combat its spread. The booster vaccination schedule is based on age, from oldest to youngest. People will now be able to get the vaccine booster 3 months, instead of 6 months, after their last vaccination or most recent positive test. A total of 8.5 million adults are eligible for a booster. Before the end of the year nearly all people over 60 will have been invited to get their booster vaccination.
The Dutch government has also launched a new campaign in order to reassure people who are hesitant to get the jab. From Tuesday, people can visit overvaccineren.nl to find answers to all their vaccine-related questions and alleviate their doubts about the health, safety, and long-term effects of the coronavirus vaccines.
The government is extending the support package (in Dutch only) for businesses, self-employed people, cultural organisations (in Dutch only) and sports organisations affected by these measures until the end of March 2022. A total of €4.4 billion has been set aside for this purpose.
Support for the events industry is being extended until the end of the third quarter. Events that are prohibited by the government during this period are eligible for support, although organisers will be liable for a greater share of the risk.
[Source: The government of the Netherlands]
This is an ongoing situation and it is advisable to check the websites of the relevant authorities to obtain the most up-to-date information. To keep updated with advice from the government and the RIVM, head to: http://government.nl/coronavirus; https://www.rivm.nl/en/novel-coronavirus-covid-19
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