The Netherlands entered a strict Christmas lockdown, with desperate Dutch shoppers seeking government reimbursement for sales as Omicron spreads to European countries.
Prime Minister Mark Root announced the shutdown in an announcement on Saturday, ordering the closure of all services, including gyms, hairdressers, restaurants and other public places. Only essential services are allowed to remain open. While the lockdown is expected to last till January 24, the news came as a shock to many as they rushed to get a haircut and stock up on holiday essentials at the last minute.
“I stand here in a sad mood tonight. And many people watching will feel the same way,” Rutte said at a news conference. “To sum it up in one sentence, the Netherlands will go back into lockdown from tomorrow. “
“I can now hear the whole Netherlands sighing. It’s just a week before Christmas, another Christmas completely different from what we want,” Rutte said, while in hospitals “from the failure to lock down.” It could be an intolerable situation.
Hospitals in the country are apparently canceling operations out of fear that cases of omicron could increase the number of beds available. Although currently a minority, Omicron is expanding throughout the Netherlands, and is expected to have a major version by the end of 2021. It’s already been weeks of curfew to stop the spread of the latest version.
Currently, more than 85 percent of all Dutch adults are fully vaccinated with two shots. Less than nine percent have received a booster shot, and the government is working to accelerate the booster program.
Jaap van Dessel, head of the Dutch outbreak management team, said the lockdown measures would give the government enough time to provide more booster shots as well as prepare for an omicron outbreak. “As a country we are best protected if as many people as possible get booster vaccinations,” he said. All Dutch adults will receive a booster invitation by January 7.
The country has reported more than 20,000 deaths since the pandemic began, according to the Dutch National Institute for Public Health, which has recorded more than 2.9 million cases.
no celebration for shoppers
However, Dutch retailers and shopkeepers are disappointed by the government’s drastic move, especially during the most crucial time of the year.
“Nowhere in Europe is there such a strict regime as in the Netherlands,” said Jan Meermann, director of the Dutch retailers’ association Inretel.
He added: “From a health point of view, I understand that something needs to be done, but then it is important that the cabinet also makes a grand financial gesture and reimburses entrepreneurs generously. 100% compensation as far as we are concerned. Many colleagues are still indebted so much from the first lockdown, they can’t bear it anymore… they are broken by these drastic measures. ,
The Dutch government offers financial compensation when a quarter has a 30 percent loss compared to the previous year, and provides salary support when the loss is 20 percent.
But, Goni Yousen of the Hairdressers’ Union claims that, since it’s the end of the quarter, they won’t be able to claim reimbursement, while, at the same time, losing out on the best of the year.
“Because now a significant part of December is gone, but we have generated business for the rest of the fourth quarter. As a result, many entrepreneurs probably do not qualify for support, even if they miss the best of weeks,” she told the media outlet.
In addition to businesses, families are only allowed to host up to four visitors aged 13 and older, from December 24 to 26, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. For other days, only two visitors are allowed.
Events are limited to funerals only; schools are closed; And professional matches will be held without spectators.
Omicron is spreading rapidly in neighboring Germany, but the government has not yet imposed any lockdown.
“No, we will not have a lockdown like the Netherlands before Christmas,” Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach told public broadcaster ARD. “But in fact it is like this: we will get a fifth wave.”
In Belgium, protesters took to the streets to protest government restrictions. Protesters were holding signs that read “I’ve taken my proper dose” and “Enough is enough.”
The United Kingdom and Italy are considering new lockdown measures as the number of cases rises in a possible new wave.