AMSTERDAM, Dec 14 —The Dutch government today said it is considering closing schools a week early for Christmas this year as coronavirus infections remain high and hospitals struggle with a wave of Covid-19 patients.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte is expected to announce an extension of restrictions that have been in place since Nov 28 at a news conference at 1800 GMT.
These include the closing of all restaurants, bars, non-essential stores and other public places from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., the barring of all spectators at sporting events, and advice to work from home as much as possible.
Infections in the country of 17.5 million have dropped from record levels following the introduction of the nighttime lockdown, but remain relatively high at around 85 per 100,000 inhabitants.
The number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals has remained among the highest levels of the year and hospitals throughout the country have been ordered to postpone all non-emergency operations for weeks to free up beds in intensive care units.
As infections remain highest among young children, experts have advised the government to close schools a week earlier than planned, on Dec. 17, to better protect older family members during Christmas.
The government has repeatedly said it would do whatever it could to prevent schools from closing, but today acknowledged the option was back on the table.
“It’s a tough decision to make”, Education Minister Arie Slob told reporters before a government meeting to decide on the measure. “We will have to look very closely again at what is necessary.”
So far, the Netherlands has registered almost 2.9 million coronavirus infections, with 20,140 related deaths — Reuters