Covid-19: Netherlands to impose stricter restrictions to avoid healthcare breakdown
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AMSTERDAM, Nov 26 (Reuters) - The Dutch government on Friday was set to tighten Covid-19 measures, including early closure of bars, restaurants and most stores to stem a record-breaking wave of infections that is threatening to overwhelm the healthcare system.
Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte met his Cabinet to make a final decision on what restrictions were needed to ensure hospitals, stressed by a surge in new Coronavirus patients, do not run out of intensive care capacity.
Rutte was due to hold a televised news conference at 1800GMT.
The current wave of Dutch cases, running above 20 000 infections per day for the past week, has continued despite restrictions, including the reintroduction of face masks and closure of bars and restaurants after 8pm imposed by Rutte's government earlier this month.
The surge in the Netherlands, the worst in Western Europe, came even though 85% of the adult population have been vaccinated, with infections now rising most quickly among schoolchildren, who are not vaccinated.
A report on Thursday by national broadcaster NOS said the country's top healthcare panel had advised Rutte to close restaurants and non-essential stores by 5pm -- and against closing schools. But some experts argue that school closures are needed as part of a short, near-total lockdown to regain control of the situation.
New measures to be announced on Friday were set to go into effect Sunday and included mask wearing at schools, the NOS reported.
A government proposal, not yet policy, to restrict unvaccinated people from public places, prompted three nights of rioting last weekend.
Dutch hospitals on Friday were instructed to postpone plannable care to free up beds in ICU units. Some patients have been transferred to neighbouring Germany.