Dutch government imposes strict Christmas lockdown amid COVID surge

The Netherlands is one of many European countries trying to stem the spread of the Omicron variant

The Dutch government has announced a nationwide lockdown over the Christmas period to stem rising COVID-19 infections spurred by the Omicron variant.

Non-essential stores, bars and restaurants in the Netherlands will be closed until at least 14 January. Schools and universities will be shut until 9 January, and residents will only be permitted two guests, except during the Christmas and New Year period when four will be allowed.

The new rules are the strictest that have been announced since the Omicron variant emerged. Events will not be permitted except for funerals, weekly markets selling groceries, and professional sports matches with no spectators.

Several European countries have introduced new measures to slow the spread of Omicron. In Denmark, government has closed theatres, concert halls, amusement parks and museums. The Irish government imposed an 8pm curfew on pubs and bars, while limiting attendance at indoor and outdoor events.

France has also introduced strict travel restrictions on those entering the country from the United Kingdom. With nearly 25,000 confirmed Omicron cases by Saturday, the UK has become the hardest hit country in the region.

Malta is yet to register any cases of Omicron, but Health Minister Chris Fearne said it is only a matter of time until the variant reaches Malta’s shores.

Government reimposed a mask-wearing mandate in public places to mitigate rising cases. Meanwhile, booster doses are being offered to all those aged 35 and over.