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WorldNetherlands set for toughest lockdown yet over Christmas

Reuters
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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte arrives to attend a face-to-face EU summit amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown in Brussels, Belgium December 10, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman/Pool

The Netherlands will enter its toughest lockdown of the coronavirus pandemic this week, as Prime Minister Mark Rutte is expected to announce that schools and shops will be closed for at least a month, Dutch media reported on Monday.

Rutte held emergency meetings on Monday about the soaring rate of COVID-19 infections and took the unusual step of inviting the heads of all political parties in parliament to join the talks.

He was expected to announce the tighter lockdown measures in a rare television address to the country, broadcast from his office at 1900 local time (1800GMT).

Broadcasters NOS and RTL cited government sources as saying that all schools and non-essential shops would be closed until Jan. 19, along with daycare centres, gyms, museums, zoos, cinemas, hairdressers and beauty salons.

Supermarkets, banks and pharmacies would be allowed to stay open, NOS and RTL said.

This would make the lockdown stricter than the one imposed during the first COVID-19 wave between March and May, when schools were closed but shops could open.

New coronavirus infections in the country of 17 million increased by around 8,500 in the 24 hours through Monday morning, data released by national health authorities showed.

This followed a jump by almost 10,000 a day earlier, which was the biggest rise in more than six weeks. read more

The Netherlands has recorded more than 600,000 cases and 10,000 deaths during the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite restrictions, shopping districts across the Netherlands have been crowded for weeks, with a spike in infections after the Dec. 5 gift-giving celebrations marking the birthday of Saint Nicholas.

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