Emergency Cabinet meeting to discuss Omicron variant on Saturday
A large portion of the caretaker Cabinet will consider the latest advice from the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) about the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The emergency meeting will be held at the beginning of Saturday afternoon, and will be held digitally, according to sources.
A press event will follow soon after in which new coronavirus measures may be announced, depending on the outcome of the meeting. All measures are still on the table, sources told AD. The newspaper reported that measures could include cutting the number of household guests allowed per day, stricter limitations to the hospitality, culture, and retail sectors. The source also spoke of shutting down entire sectors, or even a hard lockdown.
If new measures are announced, a parliamentary debate will also take place next week. Parliament would be brought back from recess, said Attje Kuiken. The PvdA member is the acting chair of the public health committee in the Tweede Kamer. The Tweede Kamer held its last meeting of the year on Thursday before starting its winter recess.
Sources told NOS that additional meetings could also be held on Sunday at Catshuis, the prime minister's official residence, and on Monday at Prime Minister Mark Rutte's office.
The emergency online Cabinet meeting was hastily arranged after members of the Cabinet were briefed by the OMT on Friday. Health Minister Hugo de Jonge left that meeting pessimistically, saying, "We are very concerned," about the situation. He conceded that additional measures could be introduced soon.
Soon after, a source close to the OMT told NOS that the advisors want additional restrictions to be introduced. The meeting was held just four days after De Jonge and Rutte extended the current evening lockdown to January 14, and closed down primary schools and after school care next week. After school care can start back up after Christmas, while schools won't return from the winter holiday until January 10.
After the OMT meeting on Friday, it emerged that Omicron infections account for 25 percent of all new coronavirus cases in Amsterdam. Omicron infections are doubling in the Capital every two to three days.
Daily coronavirus infections are still nine times higher than the average number of infections at the end of September. Over 106,000 infections were reported the past seven days. Although that was still a substantial improvement from late-November, daily infections have been above average for the past two days. The total number of hospitalized patients with Covid-19 fell from about 2,850 on December 9 to below 2,500 on Friday, though that figure is still 5.5-times the number of patients in care at the start of October, when most coronavirus restrictions were initially released by the Cabinet.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times