AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Dutch government on Monday announced a raft of new restrictions to slow a second wave of coronavirus infections, including earlier closing times for bars and restaurants and limited travel between major cities.
The measures, which also include wider use of cloth masks for the public in Amsterdam and other big cities, came as daily new infection rates have passed their earlier peak in April.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the steps were unavoidable due to the speed of the virus’s spread.
“Naturally these measures will have negative economic consequences,” he said in a televised press conference. “But allowing the virus to flare up would have even bigger consequences, including damage to the economy.”
Businesses were instructed to have employees work from home except when strictly necessary. Bars and restaurants must shut by 10 p.m.
People were told to avoid non-essential travel between hot spots Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. Retail stores in those cities will be allowed to refuse customers who do not wear masks.
Sporting events will be closed to the public and gatherings limited to 40 people. Social gatherings at home must be limited to three guests.
Rutte had said on Friday he was considering regional measures to slow the outbreak, but by Monday the situation had worsened, prompting the nationwide measures.
The National Institute for Health (RIVM) on Monday reported 2,914 new cases, just shy of Sunday’s all-time record of 2,995.
Hospitalisations and deaths are below April’s levels, but the head of the country’s intensive care units warned that non-essential procedures will be delayed to make way for COVID-19 patients again starting this weekend.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said the number of infections was projected to increase to 5,000 per day from a current 3,000 before the measures kick in.
Reporting by Toby Sterling and Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Nick Macfie and Lisa Shumaker