18 December 2021, by Victoria Séveno
At the press conference on Saturday, December 18, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge announced a hard lockdown for the Netherlands that would come into effect on Sunday, December 19. The lockdown is due to remain in place until (at least) January 14.
The Netherlands to celebrate second Christmas in lockdown
Almost a year to the day since Rutte announced a hard lockdown for Christmas 2020, and only a few days after the government’s last coronavirus press conference, Saturday saw the Dutch government call another, last-minute press conference in order to address the rising Omicron infection rate.
For the first time, the chairman of the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) and the Outbreak Management Team (OMT), Jaap van Dissel, was also present at the press conference. Van Dissel outlined the views of the OMT, emphasising the fact that little was known about the new variant and that experts felt the current situation in the Netherlands was “worrying.” He said the new restrictions were needed in order to curb the spread of Omicron and limit the pressure on the Dutch healthcare system.
According to Van Dissel, Omicron will be the dominant COVID-19 strain in the Netherlands before the end of 2021, replacing the Delta variant. He said it was likely that the severity of the imminent Omicron wave could be even worse than that of the first wave last spring. He also highlighted the importance of booster shots in the fight against Omicron.
Dutch government announces hard lockdown
As per the latest advice from the OMT, Rutte and De Jonge revealed that the country would go into a hard lockdown that would remain in place until the new year. The following restrictions will come into effect at 5am on December 19:
- Schools, universities, and after-school care to close (from December 20 – January 9)
- Non-essential shops to close (open for click and collect)
- Catering industry to close (open for takeaway)
- Museums to close
- Cinemas to close
- Zoos to close
- Theatres to close
- Casinos to close
- Theme parks to close
- Concert halls to close
- Gyms and other indoor sports facilities to close
- Enforced opening times of 5am – 5pm for outdoor sports facilities
- Ban on all events (including Christmas markets)
- Hairdressers and other non-medical contact-based professions to close
- Max. two household guests per day (excluding children under the age of 13)
- Max. four household guests on December 24, 25, 26, and 31 (excluding children under the age of 13)
- When outside, max. group size of two (if not from the same household) (excluding children under the age of 13)
- When outside, max. group size of four on December 24, 25, 26, and 31 (if not from the same household) (excluding children under the age of 13)
- Max. 100 people at funerals
In addition to the new rules, the following measures will remain in place until January:
- Face masks mandatory at hospitals, at airports, on public transport, and in indoor public areas (i.e. supermarkets)
- Enforced opening times of 5am – 8pm for essential shops / services (i.e. supermarkets, pharmacies, libraries)
- Ensure proper ventilation in all indoor spaces
- If you’re showing symptoms of COVID-19 then stay home and get tested
- Limit travel as much as possible and avoid crowds
- Work from home as much as possible
- Maintain 1,5-metre distance
- No spectators at professional sporting events
- If a member of a household is infected with coronavirus, all other members must also go into quarantine (regardless of vaccination status)
The above restrictions will remain in effect until (at least) January 14.
Emergency childcare will remain open for vulnerable children and children of key workers. On January 3, the government will evaluate whether schools can reopen on January 10.
The government will reevaluate the COVID-19 situation in the new year, with the next press conference scheduled to take place in the week of January 10.