AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Dutch government will announce further measures to fight the coronavirus this week amid fears that the “British variant” and other new mutations could soon start spreading, the health minister said on Tuesday.
The country’s Outbreak Management Team had advised the government on Sunday that infections remain worrying and “new variants of the virus are going to contribute to that in the coming weeks”, Hugo de Jonge said in a letter to parliament.
“It is necessary that we take extra measures in the shortest possible term,” he said.
The government has been considering a night curfew on top of its current lockdown, which includes a ban on public gatherings and the closure of schools, restaurants and non-essential shops.
As an alternative to the curfew, the government has examined the possibility of restricting the number of visitors people are allowed to receive at home, from the current maximum of 2 adults.
The government will decide on the new measures on Wednesday morning, De Jonge said.
The Netherlands has been in varying stages of lockdown since September, with the most rigid measures introduced in mid-December..
After the winter holidays, health officials said most lockdown measures would continue through mid-February and schools would not reopen.
Although the Netherlands was the last among major European Union countries to begin vaccinations, there are signs the current lockdown is working.
Data from the National Institute for Health (RIVM) shows three straight weeks of declining new infections, with fewer than 5,000 new cases reported on Monday, which was the smallest increase since Dec. 1.
The RIVM’s weekly review is due later on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Jon Boyle and Giles Elgood)