The Dutch government on Thursday was considering whether to impose Western Europe’s first partial lockdown since the summer, as new coronavirus cases jumped to the highest level since the start of the pandemic.
A surge in infections that started when social distancing measures were lifted late September has put pressure on hospitals throughout the country, forcing them to scale back regular care to treat Covid-19 patients.
New coronavirus infections in the country of 17.5 million have roughly doubled in the last week and hit a record of around 16,300 in 24 hours on Thursday.
To contain the outbreak, the government’s pandemic advisory panel on Thursday recommended imposing a partial lockdown, shutting down theatres and cinemas, scrapping large events and closing cafes and restaurants earlier, broadcaster NOS reported.
Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s cabinet will discuss the advice during an emergency meeting on Thursday night, and will announce its decisions during a televised press conference scheduled for Friday 1800 GMT.
The government often follows the expert panel’s recommendations.
After a partial lockdown of around two weeks, during which schools would remain open, entrance to public places should be limited to people who have been fully vaccinated or have recently recovered from a coronavirus infection, according to the advice.
Even as infections spike to record levels, many developed countries have taken the view vaccine rollouts mean lockdowns are unnecessary.
Britain is relying on booster shots to increase immunity and to try to avoid overwhelming its healthcare system.
The Netherlands has so far provided booster shots to a small group of people with weak immune systems. It will start offering them to people aged 80 years and older in December, while extra shots will eventually be available for anyone older than 60.
Around 85% of the adult population in the Netherlands has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Last month, roughly 56% of Dutch Covid-19 patients in hospitals and 70% of those in intensive care were unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated.
Unvaccinated Covid-19 patients in Dutch hospitals had a median age of 59, compared to 77 years for vaccinated patients, data provided by the Netherlands’ Institute for Health showed.
Last week, the Netherlands re-introduced masks and expanded the list of venues that require a “corona pass” that demonstrates vaccination or a negative test result, to gain access.