| 25 May 2024, Saturday |

Dutch schools to close early for Christmas to limit COVID-19 spread

Schools in the Netherlands will close a week early this Christmas because coronavirus infections remain high and hospitals are dealing with a surge of COVID-19 patients, according to Dutch broadcaster RTL on Tuesday.

Schools will close by December 21 at the latest in an effort to prevent youngsters from infecting older family members during the holidays, according to RTL, citing government sources.

At a meeting to review coronavirus rules on Tuesday, the administration stated it might consider an early Christmas vacation.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte is due to make the announcement at a press conference at 1800 GMT.

He is also likely to extend restrictions that have been in place since Nov. 28, including the closing of restaurants, bars, non-essential stores and other public places from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., the barring of all spectators from sporting events, and advice to work from home as much as possible.

Infections in the country of 17.5 million have dropped from record levels following the introduction of the nighttime lockdown, but remain relatively high at around 85 per 100,000 inhabitants.

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals has remained among the highest levels of the year and hospitals throughout the country have been ordered to postpone all non-emergency operations for weeks to free up beds in intensive care units.

As infections remain highest among young children, experts had advised the government to close schools a week earlier than planned, on Dec. 17.

The government has repeatedly said it would do whatever it could to prevent schools from closing, but on Tuesday acknowledged the option was back on the table.

“It’s a tough decision to make,” Education Minister Arie Slob told reporters before a government meeting to decide on the measure. “We will have to look very closely again at what is necessary.”

The Netherlands has registered almost 2.9 million coronavirus infections, with 20,140 related deaths.

  • Reuters