Dutch try to contain coronavirus as hospital infections jump

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch health authorities took action on Tuesday to contain an outbreak of the coronavirus in a southern province of the Netherlands, where a large group of employees at hospitals tested positive for the illness.

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In the most far-reaching measures yet in the Netherlands to contain the outbreak, professional soccer matches in Noord-Brabant province were canceled and local officials told residents in a televised news conference not to attend large-scale public events.

“A large number of events with thousands of visitors are going to be canceled, forbidden,” said John Jorritsma, the mayor of Eindhoven, Noord-Brabant’s biggest city. “Brabant is taking its responsibility to stop this virus from spreading.”

The measure would be imposed until March 16 and included all major concerts, festivals, carnival parades and league soccer matches, he said.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Netherlands had risen by 61 to 382, health officials said.

The Dutch National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) said 4% of employees at several regional hospitals in the province, who had mild respiratory symptoms, had tested positive in tests conducted from March 7-8.

The latest figure does not include all newly registered infections at half a dozen hospitals in Noord-Brabant, an RIVM spokesman told Reuters.

Of the total infections in the Netherlands, 157 are in Noord-Brabant, it said. A large group was at the ETZ Hospital in the town of Tilburg, where 28 of 301 employees with the symptoms had tested positive for COVID-19.

Officials at the RIVM were not immediately available to clarify how many hospital employees had been tested and what measures were being taken to avoid further infections at the facilities.

Earlier on Tuesday, the RIVM said 61 people had tested positive for the new virus since Monday and one more person had died, taking the number of deaths so far to four.

Most infections in the Netherlands have been traced to people infected abroad, but the RIVM said it was still attempting to determine the origin of 157 infections. The first confirmed case in the Netherlands was reported on Feb. 27.

Editing by Alex Richardson and Timothy Heritage