Dutch hospitals urge new measures as COVID-19 cases near record

A member of the medical personnel wearing a full protective suit works in the intensive care unit at Maastricht UMC+ Hospital, where patients suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are treated, in Maastricht, Netherlands, November 10, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

AMSTERDAM, Nov 9 (Reuters) - A group of hospitals in the southern Dutch province of Limburg on Tuesday called for the government to take new measures to stem rising COVID-19 cases, saying they have no space or staff to handle more coronavirus patients.

Coronavirus infections in the Netherlands, as in other parts of Europe, are approaching all-time highs despite adult vaccination levels around 85%.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government announced last week new measures to slow the spread of the virus, two months after scrapping social distancing rules. The steps included the reintroduction of face masks in stores and broader use of the country's proof-of-vaccination "corona pass". read more

Cases have continued to rise, however, and the Netherlands' Institute for Health (RIVM) on Tuesday reported weekly cases were up 45% to 76,790, or more than 400 per 100,000 inhabitants.

"We are heading straight for a healthcare disaster and the whole system is becoming jammed," the five hospitals in Limburg said in a letter to Rutte's government. "We're convinced the rest of the Netherlands will be following us shortly."

They urged fresh measures including beginning immediately with booster vaccination shots for elderly and vulnerable patients.

Rutte's government has said it will offer booster shots to patients over the age of 60 once six months has passed since they were fully vaccinated.

His government is due to announce whether it will take new measures at a news conference scheduled for Friday.

Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Alex Richardson and Ed Osmond

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