Netherlands imposes weeks-long nationwide lockdown amid omicron-fueled case surge

The Netherlands is imposing a weeks-long nationwide lockdown amid a surge of cases caused by the new omicron variant. 

Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced Saturday that nonessential stores, bars and restaurants will be shut down from Sunday until Jan. 14 and that schools will be shut down until Jan. 9, The Associated Press reported

“I can hear the whole of the Netherlands sighing,” Rutte said. “All this, exactly one week before Christmas. Another Christmas that is completely different from what we want. Very bad news again for all those businesses and cultural institutions that rely on the holidays.”

On Christmas and New Year’s, Dutch households will be allowed only four visitors. Only two visitors will permitted on all other days during the lockdown. 

The move is “unavoidable because of the fifth wave caused by the omicron variant that is bearing down on us,” Rutte said, according to the AP. 

The Netherlands is now at the forefront of a number of European countries tightening restrictions as the omicron variant spreads across the continent and nations mark some of their highest daily COVID-19 case numbers since the pandemic began.

Multiple other countries, including the United Kingdom and France, have implemented additional travel restrictions and mask mandates and canceled some events in order to combat the variant. 

Health officials in the U.S. have said that the variant will likely become the dominant COVID-19 strain in the country in upcoming weeks.

The World Health Organization said on Saturday that the omicron variant has been detected in 89 countries.

Tags covid-19 restrictions COVID-19 variants Mark Rutte Omicron variant the Netherlands

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