Dutch Reintroduce Face Masks As COVID-19 Cases Surge

Dutch COVID-19 Cases Surge

Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced on Tuesday that the Dutch government has chosen to re-impose measures, including the wearing of face masks, aimed at decreasing the latest surge of COVID-19 cases.

As of Nov. 6, the use of a “corona pass,” which requires proof of a COVID-19 vaccine or a recent negative coronavirus test, will be extended to public places such as museums, gyms, and outdoor terraces, according to Rutte.

Coronavirus infections in the Netherlands have been rising for a month after most social distancing measures were scrapped in late September, and reached their highest level since July in the past week.

This has forced many hospitals to cut back on regular care again, to make room for urgent COVID-19 cases.

In a televised news conference, Rutte called on all Dutch, vaccinated and unvaccinated, to stick to basic hygiene rules and to stay at home if they had symptoms of a possible infection.

“Our own behavior is crucial, a very large part of our coronavirus policy depends on it,” the prime minister said.

Face masks will be reintroduced in stores and other public places, while people are advised to work at home for at least half of the time.

The government next week could decide to broaden the use of the corona pass to the workplace, Rutte said.

Dutch health authorities on Tuesday recommended COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for older adults. Around 84 percent of the Dutch adult population has been vaccinated.

As of Tuesday, new infections were up nearly 40 percent week-on-week to more than 300 infections per 100,000 people, approaching peaks previously seen in July 2021, and in December and October 2020.

The strain on hospitals is an immediate concern, as the country’s National Institute for Health said on Tuesday admissions are up 31 percent in the past week, with unvaccinated patients accounting for most hospitalisations.

Among people testing positive in the past month, about 52 percent say they were unvaccinated, while 45 percent say they were fully vaccinated, according to RIVM data.

Earlier on Tuesday the country’s Health Council recommended that fully vaccinated adults aged 60 and older should begin receiving a booster shot.

Rutte’s government routinely adopts the council’s recommendations.

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