The Netherlands is again imposing a strict lockdown and the UK is not ruling out new measures over Omicron
Posted by Sheena McKenzie, CNN
The Netherlands faced a strict one new lockdown Sunday amid fears about the Omicron variant of coronavirus, and the UK Health Secretary wouldn’t rule out further restrictions as Europe braces for a spike in Covid-19 infections during the usually busy holidays.
Indoor gatherings in the Netherlands are now limited to a maximum of two guests per household until at least mid-January, Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced on Saturday. This number is slightly increased to four guests around Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Shops, restaurants and cultural institutions that are not absolutely essential will also be closed, while schools will remain closed until at least January 9th.
In a televised address, Rutte said the lockdown was “inevitable because of the fifth wave that is coming with the Omicron variant,” reported Reuters.
If action were not taken now, it would likely result in “an unmanageable situation in hospitals,” added Rutte.
The Netherlands was already grappling with a new wave of Covid-19 cases before the Omicron tribe hit its shores last month. Some experts are now predicting that it will become the dominant variant in the country this year.
Elsewhere in Europe, fear threatens that this year’s Christmas celebrations will look very similar to 2020, despite the introduction of the vaccine, as Omicron is spreading at phenomenal speed in parts of the continent.
London declares “serious incident”
Elsewhere, the UK is in the grip of a surge in Omicron infections, and Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the BBC on Sunday that he could not rule out restrictions before Christmas.
The Omicron variant now makes up around 60% of Covid 19 cases in England, Javid also told Sky News on Sunday.
In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, Javid said that while much was unknown about the severity of Omicron, Britain knew it was facing a “tsunami of infection” in the coming days and weeks.
“Omicron is expanding at an unprecedented rate, doubling about every two to three days. More than 90,000 new cases were reported across the UK yesterday. We are very confident that the number of infections – people with the disease who have not been confirmed by a test – is significantly higher, ”wrote Javid on Sunday.
His comments come after London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared a “serious incident” in the capital on Saturday due to the rapidly increasing number of cases. A “major incident” refers to an event that requires special agreements between emergency services and local authorities.
Khan said Sunday on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that new Covid-19 restrictions were “inevitable”.
The UK has reintroduced some measures in the past few weeks – including wearing masks in most indoor public spaces and working from home – to curb infection.
But Khan urged the government to go further. “I think if we don’t put new restrictions in place, sooner rather than later you will see even more positive cases and possibly public services like the NHS [the UK health service] about to collapse, if not collapse, ”he said.
The government’s Scientific Group on Emergencies (SAGE) also warned in a meeting on Thursday that Covid-19 hospital admissions in England could reach 3,000 a day unless more coronavirus measures are put in place very soon.
Germany on Sunday added Great Britain to its list of areas with “worrying variants” – meaning only German citizens and UK residents can enter the country.
There are already cities across the continent Cancel New Year celebrations amid concerns of rising cases.
France announced on Friday that large outdoor events and gatherings will be banned on New Years Eve as the country faces its fifth wave of infections and warns that Omicron will be the dominant variant by early 2022.
Denmark has also proposed closing cinemas and theaters and limiting the number of people in stores in the week leading up to Christmas to control an increase in cases.
And Rome is among several Italian cities that have decided to cancel the New Year celebrations due to concerns about the coronavirus, authorities said on Thursday.
The CNN Wire
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Contributors to this report were Sarah Dean, Martin Goillandeau, George Engels, Niamh Kennedy, Nadine Schmidt, Dalal Mawad and Livia Borghese of CNN