Dutch splint affected by riots for new Covid borders
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The Hague (AFP) – The Netherlands is expected to tighten its partial lockdown on Friday to curb the surge in coronavirus cases, as police brace for possible further riots over the restrictions.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte is expected to announce new anti-Covid measures at a press conference at 6:00 p.m. GMT, which could include closing non-essential bars, restaurants and shops at 5:00 p.m.
New restrictions risk escalating a tense situation after four nights of unrest across the country, including in the port city of Rotterdam where five rioters were shot dead by police.
“We are keeping our eyes and ears open and we are ready,” Rotterdam police spokesman Gijs van Nimwegen told AFP.
“We hope that things will remain calm in Rotterdam and the rest of the Netherlands.”
Dutch hospitals have warned of a critical bed shortage and canceled operations as wards fill up with Covid patients.
The Netherlands lifted most restrictions in September, but was forced to reintroduce them as cases reached record levels.
Protests erupted in The Hague during the Prime Minister’s last two press conferences on Covid, with police using water cannons to disperse protesters.
The government brought forward the last week-long press conference to begin on December 3, saying urgent action was needed.
Dutch media said Rutte is expected to announce the early closure of shops and restaurants – just two weeks after the government had already ordered them to close at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. respectively.
But schools were to remain open, despite calls to close the doors a few weeks before the Christmas break, the largest increase in cases involving children 12 and under.
Health experts from the Dutch Outbreak Management Team are said to have estimated that a new closure of schools, as was the case at the start of the pandemic, would be harmful to children.
Citizens are already invited not to welcome more than four guests and to work from home.
Football matches have been closed to the public and traditional fireworks have been banned for the second year in a row.
The government plans to ban unvaccinated people from accessing bars and restaurants under so-called “2G measures”.
An anti-2G demonstration in Rotterdam sparked violent riots last Friday in which five people were injured by police bullets and rioters set a police car on fire.
The unrest spread to The Hague where protesters threw fireworks at police on Saturday and to other cities including Groningen in the north on Sunday and Monday.
At least 173 people have been arrested across the country.
Dutch authorities said on Thursday 61 people had died from Covid in the past 24 hours with some 22,274 new infections reported, 1,488 fewer than on Wednesday.
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