Dutch health authorities on Tuesday informed that the COVID-19 cases in the country have declined by 20% over the last week, but warned the new variants are "gaining ground" as they now account for two-thirds of infections. Prime Minister Mark Rutte extended the lockdown for at least a month following the announcement by the health authorities, who cautioned against lowering the guard. Rutte extended the lockdown that the country had imposed 10 days ago, a move that triggered violent protests in the country.
"The number of infections per day is decreasing and the hospital is also slowly becoming less busy. But new variants of the coronavirus are rapidly gaining ground in the Netherlands. That is worrisome because those variants are more contagious and can lead to a new wave of infections. That is why the cabinet has decided to continue the current lockdown," the Dutch government said on Tuesday.
All non-essential stores will remain close in the country, but the government has decided to allow to collect pre-placed orders from February 10 onwards in order to make the lockdown more bearable. The government has urged people to stay at home and work from home and only go out in case of emergency or to buy essential items, such as groceries and medical supplies. The government has said that employers must ensure that employees who can work from home must do so.
People are not allowed to receive more than one visitor per day and cannot go out more than once a day. Secondary schools will continue to remain close until at least March 1. However, primary schools, daycare, and special schools have been allowed to reopen from February 8 onwards. Employees in education can go for testing on short notice, while parents and childcare facilities have been advised to make sure minimum contact happens during schooling.
Meanwhile, nighttime curfew, which sparked protests in the country last week, will be valid until February 10. The cabinet has asked the OMT for advice and based on the evidence further decision will be taken next week.
The Netherlands has reported more than 9,82,000 COVID-19 cases and over 14,000 deaths so far. The country has administered nearly 2,50,000 vaccine shots under the European Union's vaccination programme to date.
(Image Credit: AP)