Dutch coronavirus cases reach new record amid Omicron wave

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People do their Christmas shopping before the Dutch government's expected announcement of a "strict" Christmas lockdown to curb the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant, in the city centre of Nijmegen, Netherlands December 18, 2021. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

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AMSTERDAM, Jan 5 (Reuters) - New coronavirus cases in the Netherlands jumped to a record high of around 24,500 on Wednesday as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has become dominant in the country, official data showed.

Infections were up almost 60% from last week despite a strict lockdownthat has closed all but essential stores as well as restaurants, hairdressers, gyms, museums and other public places since Dec 19. read more

The previous record of just under 24,000 cases in 24 hours was set during the wave of infections caused by the Delta variant of the virus that swamped hospitals throughout the country in late November.

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The lockdown has driven down the number of COVID-19 patients in Dutch hospitals to their lowest levels in two months but experts expect admissions to increase again soon due to the rapid rise in infections.

Despite the looming wave of new cases, the Dutch government on Monday decided that primary and secondary schools can reopen as planned after the Christmas break on Jan 10. read more It is set to decide on other elements of the lockdown on Jan 14.

More than 85% of Dutch adults are vaccinated but the country's booster campaign has been slow to ramp up. As of Wednesday 32% of adults have had a booster, according to government data.

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Reporting by Anthony Deutsch, Stephanie van den Berg and Bart Meijer; Editing by Alex Richardson and Mark Porter

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