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Dutch government to shut down Netherlands through the holidays

Dutch government to shut down Netherlands through the holidays
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The Dutch government will impose further coronavirus restrictions and shut down much of the Netherlands through the holidays starting on Tuesday, the prime minister announced Monday.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said during a televised briefing that the Netherlands would start a five-week nationwide shutdown, which will close schools, nonessential businesses, museums and gyms, The Associated Press reported. The lockdown is scheduled to be in place until midnight on Jan. 19. 

As Rutte made the announcement, protesters blew whistles outside in a condemnation of the decision. 

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“We have to bite through this very sour apple before things get better,” Rutte said during his address, according to the AP. 

“The reality is also that we are not dealing with an innocent flu, which some people, such as the demonstrators outside still think, but with a virus that can hit anyone hard," he added. 

The nonessential businesses, including hair salons, museums and theaters, will close on Tuesday, while schools and universities will be required to switch to remote learning by Wednesday. 

The restrictions limit people to have at most two guests older than 13 per day, although the rules will be loosened between Dec. 24 and 26 to allow three guests older than 13 due to the holiday. 

The announcement sparked lines at nonessential businesses as many people tried to squeeze in Christmas shopping before the shutdown, according to the AP.

The Netherlands shut down bars and restaurants to in-person customers in mid-October, although many have continued to provide takeout, which initially reduced the infection rate before it continued to climb. 

The seven-day average for new daily cases in the country has jumped from 29.22 per 100,000 people on Nov. 29 to 47.47 per 100,000 people on Sunday. In total, the Netherlands has confirmed more than 638,000 cases and more than 10,200 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The Dutch prime minister’s announcement came a day after German officials declared that stores would shut down from Wednesday until at least Jan. 10. Germany has also encouraged its residents not to go Christmas shopping amid the rise in cases and new restrictions.