AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Social curbs in the Netherlands will be extended through the end-of-year holidays due to stubbornly high COVID-19 infection rates, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Tuesday.
Rutte made the announcement after figures showed that infection rates on a weekly basis rose for the first time since October.
“It’s really not going well – not with the infection rate and not at the hospitals,” Rutte said in a live TV broadcast. “I don’t exclude that I will be back here before Christmas to announce further (lockdown) measures.”
The Netherlands has been in what the government calls a “partial lockdown” since Oct. 13, under which people are advised to work from home and non-essential travel and public gatherings are banned.
Rutte had hoped an improvement in infections would enable an easing of restrictions during Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
But the government decided on Tuesday to extend a limit of three adult visitors per household by one month until Jan. 15, while restaurants and bars will remain closed.
There were 43,103 new infections registered in the week ended Dec. 8, the National Institute for Health RIVM said in its weekly update, up 27% from 33,949 in the week before.
The Netherlands has recorded more than 500,000 COVID-19 infections and nearly 10,000 deaths.
The RIVM called the weekly increase in new cases “worrying” and noted that hospitalizations had also increased to 1,229 from 1,007 the week before.
Rutte’s government, which rejected World Health Organization advice from June to recommend using non-medical masks in public places, reversed course in November. Wearing masks became mandatory in public buildings on Dec. 1.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Writing by Anthony Deutsch; editing by Catherine Evans, Philippa Fletcher and Marguerita Choy)