The Netherlands will bar flights from Britain, South Africa and almost all countries in South America starting from Jan. 23 and will implement a nationwide curfew in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus variant first found in Britain, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Wednesday.
“These are dark weeks — we have to get past this time,” Hugo de Jonge, the minister of health, said during a news conference.
The curfew, which would be the first imposed across the Netherlands since World War II, requires approval from Parliament in a vote scheduled for Thursday. It would last from 8:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. nightly until Feb. 10.
The country is already under a lockdown that closed restaurants, gyms and pools, places of entertainment and most shops, as well as halting most in-person schooling.
Under the new rules, the number of guests that people can entertain at home will be reduced to one and travelers to the Netherlands via plane and boat will have to take a rapid coronavirus test in the hours before they board, as well as show a negative result from a PCR test taken within the past 72 hours. These new measures come despite the fact that cases have been slowly declining.
The country will also delay second doses of the Pfizer vaccinations to six weeks from three, after a decision to lower the number kept in stock, Mr. de Jonge announced. “This way we can protect more people sooner, this is also important because of the spread of the British mutation,” he said.
Health experts in the Netherlands say they fear that without these new measures the more transmissible variant will be dominant in the country by March.
The Dutch Outbreak Management Team, the expert group advising the government on its policies to prevent the spread of the virus, warned on Wednesday that a third wave of the virus was inevitable because of the spread of mutations.
Since March, the Netherlands has struggled repeatedly in its efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, laying bare what many say are systemic problems in how the country is governed.