Western Europe’s first partial Covid shutdown of the winter has been declared by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, with three weeks of restrictions on stores, sport, and catering.
He said that the annoying, drastic move was in response to record infections and rising intensive care cases.
Police have fired water cannon against hundreds of protesters in The Hague.
Much of Europe is facing a surge in cases, blamed partly on low vaccine take-up in several countries.
Austria is expected to back a lockdown for unvaccinated people this weekend.
Restrictions would be imposed first in the two provinces of Upper Austria and Salzburg from Tuesday, according to Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein.
Denmark, which had downgraded coronavirus as no longer a “socially critical” disease, has re-instated a Covid-19 pass that was phased out in September. The government wants to push through a law allowing workplaces to require the pass for staff.
The Dutch prime minister said that fortunately the vast majority of people in the Netherlands had been vaccinated. But he said the three-week partial lockdown would start on Saturday evening.
- Non-essential shops will have to shut at 18:00 (17:00 GMT) and supermarkets, cafes, restaurants and hotels at 20:00
- Professional and amateur sport will continue, but behind closed doors
- That includes the Netherlands’ football World Cup qualifier against Norway on 16 November
- The 18:00 closure applies to casinos and saunas as well as hairdressers and sex workers
- A maximum of four guests aged over 13 will be allowed at people’s homes
- As many people should work from home as possible
Cinemas and theatres will stay open. Social distancing of 1.5m (5ft) is being reintroduced where Covid passes are not in operation. The caretaker cabinet is also working on a change in the law to allow businesses to choose whether they want to limit entry to people who have been vaccinated or who have recovered.
The catering industry has reacted angrily to the news. A spokesman told public broadcaster NOS the government had “crossed a line”. Last weekend, thousands of protesters marched through The Hague in anger at existing Covid restrictions.
Latest daily figures on Friday showed 16,287 new Covid cases, just short of Thursday’s record but up a third on the previous week. Dutch vaccination rates are relatively high, with 82.4 percent of over-12s having two doses, that’s 73 percent of the total population.
Protesters took to the streets in The Hague after Rutte’s announcement. Police fired water cannon after some of the crowd started throwing stones and fireworks at them.
The Hague police said on Twitter they had taken action to “restore public order”.
Austria’s situation ‘worrying’
In Austria, vaccine take-up is at 65 percent and Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg says he will talk to provincial governors on Monday before the green light is given for a national lockdown for the unvaccinated.
“The situation in Austria is worrying and infection numbers are rising rapidly, especially in Upper Austria and Salzburg,” the health minister warned. The two provinces have a combined population of more than two million.
Upper Austria governor Thomas Stelzer says people who have not been vaccinated will be able to leave home only for essential reasons such as going to work, buying food or to exercise. It is unclear how that would be enforced.
Germany, which has also seen record Covid numbers this week, declared Austria a high-risk area on Friday, so that anyone visiting who had not been vaccinated or recovered from Covid will have to quarantine for 10 days.
Eastern European countries have for weeks been fighting record infection rates, as they grapple with the lowest vaccine rates on the continent.
Romania recorded another 307 deaths, involving 286 unvaccinated people, but case numbers are down.
Slovenia has a record 215 Covid patients in intensive care, a relatively high figure for a population of more than two million.
Czech daily Covid infections have topped 10,000 for the third time this week; the government is set to announce tighter restrictions.