Netherlands lockdown: Deserted streets, but police turn water cannon on football fans gathering at stadium

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Plus: Italy looks to tighten rules but there will be no Christmas lockdown in Germany

Netherlands lockdown: Deserted streets, but police turn water cannon on football fans gathering at stadium
Supporters of Feyenoord light flares after attacking with smoke bombs a bus they thought held Ajax players
Supporters of Feyenoord light flares after attacking with smoke bombs the Ajax team bus CREDIT: AFP

Streets in the Netherlands were largely deserted on Sunday as the country began a snap lockdown that has left people’s Christmas plans in disarray.

Mark Rutte, the prime minister, announced the shutdown on Saturday evening, ordering the closure of all but essential stores, as well as restaurants, hairdressers, gyms, museums and other public places from Sunday until at least Jan 14.

The news was met with resistance in some areas. In Rotterdam, police used a water cannon to disperse a group of around 1,000 people who had gathered outside the city’s main soccer stadium, ahead of a clash between local team Feyenoord and bitter rivals Ajax Amsterdam.

Several people were held as fireworks and bottles were thrown at police and at the Ajax team bus, the news agency ANP said. Spectators have been barred from Dutch sporting events since the end of November.

Dutch police hold back the protesting Feyenoord protesters
Dutch police hold back the protesting Feyenoord protesters CREDIT: Shutterstock

The new curbs, which also include a ban on gatherings outside of more than two people, were unexpected and many people rushed out on Saturday to stock up on presents or get a last-minute festive haircut.

Hospitality workers demanded compensation for lost income over the holiday season.

“Closing all bars and restaurants in such an important month is incredibly painful and dramatic. We need compensation and an exit strategy,” the Dutch association for hospitality services said.

A deserted shopping area closed during the lockdown in Rotterdam
A deserted shopping area closed during the lockdown in Rotterdam CREDIT: Marco de Swart/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
deserted streets in Rotterdam

Dutch coronavirus infections have dropped from record levels after a night-time lockdown came into force last month. But omicron cases are increasing rapidly and the variant is expected to become dominant before the end of the year.

Hospitals have already been cancelling regular operations for weeks as they try to avoid running out of beds due to high numbers of Covid-19 patients.

The government also said on Saturday that it would accelerate its booster vaccine programme. More than 85 per cent of Dutch adults are double-vaccinated, but fewer than nine per cent have had a booster shot, one of the lowest rates in western Europe.

Italy looks to tighten rules – but no Christmas lockdown in Germany

In Italy, the government is considering new measures to avoid a surge in infections during the holiday period, local newspapers reported on Sunday.

After holding a meeting with ministers on Dec 23, the prime minister Mario Draghi could mandate that people who have been vaccinated also show a negative test to access crowded places, including discos and stadiums, daily Corriere della Sera reported.Advertisement

However, Germany’s health minister, Karl Lauterbach, has ruled out a Christmas lockdown.

“There will not be a lockdown before Christmas here. But we will get a fifth wave – we have crossed a critical number of omicron infections,” he said on Sunday. “This wave can no longer be completely stopped.”

In another interview with Bild newspaper, Mr Lauterbach added that he did not expect there to be a “hard lockdown” after the holidays either.

Germany banned unvaccinated people from entering non-essential establishments at the beginning of the month in an attempt to control rising cases amid the spread of the omicron variant.

The government still needed to make clear to the populace what would and would not be allowed during the holiday season, Mr Lauterbach said, without specifying what measures were under discussion.

Nearly 70 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated against the virus, according to data from Dec 17.

The country reported 29,348 new cases on Sunday and 180 deaths, according to the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases. The number of new daily cases rose significantly in October and November but have been slowly falling since the start of the month.

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