Coronavirus press conference at 7 p.m. Saturday; hard lockdown likely around the corner
The coronavirus press conference during which Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge will likely announce a hard lockdown is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday. Head of the RIVM Jaap van Dissel will join the ministers during the press event.
Justice and Security Minister Ferd Grapperhaus said the Cabinet wants to "make decisions that afford everyone the possibilty" to move past this difficult period.
The Outbreak Management Team (OMT) advised the government on Friday to instate a hard lockdown as soon as possible to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. All non-essential stores would thus be forced to close their doors. A strict lockdown would also mean schools, universities, restaurants, cinemas and cultural institutions cannot open. Essential stores, such as supermarkets and pharmacies would be allowed to remain open.
The Cabinet has yet to confirm the lockdown.
Experts fear the spread of the Omicron variant. The Omicron variant was responsible for 25 percent of all new coronavirus infections in Amsterdam as of Wednesday, said Menno de Jong in an interview with EenVandaag. De Jong is a virologist from the Amsterdam University Medical Center and an OMT member.
The variant can cause a contagious person to infect six unvaccinated people. This falls slightly to up to five people who were vaccinated or who recovered from a previous infection, but whose immunity against the virus may have worn off. Van Dissel, the OMT chair, said in parliament that he believes the variant will become dominant in the Netherlands sometime in January.
Business owners were not pleased to hear about the plans for the strict lockdown with Christmas around the corner. Hair salons were flooded with calls on Saturday with customers looking to secure their possibly last chance to get their hair done before the holidays.
During the last press conference on Tuesday, the Cabinet announced schools will go start Christmas vacation a week earlier than planned and the evening lockdown will be extended until at least January 14.