Netherlands extends lockdown, curfew at least a month

Netherlands extends lockdown, curfew at least a month
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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte extended Netherlands' lockdown measures on Tuesday for a minimum of a month, saying the tighter restrictions were needed due to the new COVID-19 variants.

The continued lockdown restrictions include a 9 p.m. daily curfew and restrictions on occupancy levels in businesses and public spaces, along with closures for places such as indoor entertainment venues, retail outlets, restaurants, bars and cafes.

The extended lockdown, which will continue until at least March 2, comes as worries mount over the coronavirus variant first identified in England, which officials believe is more transmissible.

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Although the Netherlands' positive COVID-19 rates dropped by 20 percent last week, to 28,628 new infections, two-thirds of Dutch cases are being attributed to new variants, The Associated Press reports.

"The number of new positive cases per day is declining and the pressure on hospitals is gradually easing. But new variants of the virus are gaining ground quickly in the Netherlands. This is cause for concern because these new variants are more infectious and can cause a new wave of infections," the Dutch government said in a statement.

Rutte said this week that "all calculations point to a third wave that seems inevitably to be bearing down on us, the main cause of which is the British variant of the coronavirus," the AP reported.

After hearing the country's public health institute's new data and recommendations, Rutte said continuing the lockdown measure "almost in its entirety until March 2 is unavoidable."

The public health institute deemed the drop in new cases to be a result of the stringent measures, and warned against relaxing the policies amid the new variants.

As the Netherlands worries about the new variant identified in the U.K., the British are facing concerns over a variant from South Africa. The AP reports that in some communities, house-to-house testing is being conducted in attempt to cease further spread.

The Netherlands has been on a tighter lockdown since mid-December, and imposed the curfew more than a week ago. The country has recently seen some clashes between police and anti-lockdown protesters.