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Healthcare & Pharma

Netherlands tightens lockdown to slow second COVID-19 wave

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Tuesday ordered extra lockdown measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in the Netherlands, and said the government is also considering curfews and school closures.

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a mask looks at street art as she walks at the International Street Art Museum following the new social restrictions announced by the Dutch government, as the Netherlands battle to control the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Amsterdam, Netherlands 14 October 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

The new measures, which include a ban on public meetings of more than two people not in the same family, were imposed amidsigns the epidemic had reached a second peak.

Rutte said the government was strongly recommending that people not travel abroad for holidays until mid-January.

“The number of new cases is falling, but not quickly enough,” Rutte said in a televised press conference.

The new measures go into effect on Wednesday for two weeks.

Rutte said other measures will remain in place through mid-December.

Bars and restaurants in the Netherlands were closed except for takeaway and delivery in a partial lockdown on Oct. 13 to slow a second wave of infections. Public gatherings were then limited to four people.

Rutte on Tuesday said museums, theatres, cinemas, zoos and amusement parks will also have to close because infection rates were still climbing in several major population centres.

A plan to make mask wearing mandatory, for which an emergency law has been passed to overcome constitutional issues, is now expected to go into effect on Dec. 1, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said.

The Netherlands joins Britain, France, Germany and several smaller European countries in restricting gatherings and people’s movements in recent weeks.

On Tuesday the National Institute for Health reported 64,087 new cases over the past week, down from 67,542 the week before, the first time weekly numbers have declined since August.

Hospitals are near capacity because of a surge in COVID-19 patients, numbers of which are continuing to climb, and the government is under pressure to ease the strain on the healthcare system.

Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; additional reporting by Bart Meijer and Toby Sterling; Editing by Ed Osmond and Grant McCool

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