The Netherlands has returned to a high-level lock-down until mid-January. All shops, bars, restaurants, gyms, outdoor sports, cultural venues and schools other than the bare essentials will remain closed over the new year’s break.
Just 75% of the total Dutch population is fully vaccinated. Australia is only 1% higher.
The Netherlands’ prime minister, Mark Rutte, said the measures were terrible but necessary to mitigate the coming fifth wave. “Without measures, we could be witnessing an uncontrollable situation at the start of January,” said the PM.
Other European countries are heading in the same direction. Denmark is closing large entertainment venues and Ireland has introduced an 8pm curfew on bars.
Holland had already gone into a partial lock-down in mid-November due to rising case numbers. This is partly because it did not wish to place special restrictions on the unvaccinated.
The measures are not just about vaccination rates, but also the new omicron variant. Holland was one of the countries that immediately detected omicron in its population after South African scientists alerted the world to its existence.
Although the science is not yet certain, omicron appears to be spreading rapidly elsewhere. Cases in Britain over the past week were up 44% compared to the previous week.
There are also record numbers of hospital staff unavailable for work in Britain. The Guardian reported the number of infected staff as tripling within a week at one hospital, and there are also reports of record absenteeism from fed-up health workers.
By consequence, London declared the omicron surge a “major incident” over the weekend. That means that, like Sydney in October, it has entered “no ambulance for you” territory: emergency service response is no longer guaranteed in time of need.
What a terrible time to have mask and distancing skeptics in charge in Canberra and Sydney.
Follow Christian on Twitter for more news updates.