AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -The health experts advising the Netherlands’ government on COVID-19 strategy have recommended the country go into a “strict” lockdown, Dutch media reported on Friday, just days after a partial lockdown was extended through January.

Broadcaster RTL Nieuws and newspaper NRC Handelsblad cited sources within the panel of experts, whose recommendations are not made public until after the government has taken a decision, that they have advised the closure of all but essential stores.

Health Minister Hugo de Jonge told journalists outside a Cabinet meeting earlier on Friday he had “big worries” about the quick spread of Omicron, which appeared just as a previous wave of infections in the Netherlands had crested.

“I won’t say what extra measures may be needed,” De Jonge said, adding that the government would follow the health experts’ advice.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government is due to meet with the health advisers on Saturday ahead of a decision on new measures.

On Tuesday, the government had ordered https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/dutch-consider-early-christmas-break-schools-limit-covid-19-spread-2021-12-14 that the 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. closure of bars, restaurants and most stores, introduced in late November, would continue until Jan. 14.

In addition, primary schools were ordered to close early for the winter holidays, due to high infection rates among children.

Rutte said then that Omicron could be the dominant coronavirus strain in the Netherlands by January.

On Friday the National Institute for Health (RIVM) reported 15,433 new COVID-19 cases, down around 25% from a week earlier – but still above the peak of any previous wave.

The country’s strained healthcare system is postponing most routine care and cancelling all but urgent operations in order to cope with COVID-19 patients.

(Reporting by Toby SterlingEditing by Frances Kerry and Rosalba O’Brien)



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