Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is set to declare Western Europe’s first partial Covid lockdown of the winter, with three weeks of restrictions for shops, sport and catering.
His caretaker government is responding to record infections and rising intensive care cases in hospitals.
Much of Europe is facing a surge in cases, blamed partly on low vaccine take-up in several countries.
One Austrian province plans a lockdown for unvaccinated people from Monday.
Denmark, which had downgraded coronavirus as no longer a “socially critical” disease, has re-instated a Covid pass that was phased out in September. The government wants to push through a law allowing workplaces to require the pass for staff.
According to widespread reports in Dutch media, the caretaker government agreed late on Thursday that the three-week partial lockdown would start on Saturday evening:
- Non-essential shops, cafes, restaurants and hotels would have to close at 19:00 (18:00 GMT)
- Professional sport would continue behind closed doors
- That would include the Netherlands’ football World Cup qualifier against Norway on 16 November
A final decision on restrictions for cinemas and theatres still has to be taken, reports say, along with plans for the existing Covid pass to be issued only to those who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid.
The catering industry has reacted angrily to the leaks; 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 figures on Thursday showed a record 16,364 new Covid cases over 24 hours, up a third on the previous week. Dutch vaccination rates are relatively high, with 82.4% of over-12s having two doses.
The package of measures is due to be confirmed by the prime minister and health minister on Friday evening.
In Austria, vaccine take-up is at 65% and Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg has warned that a national lockdown for the unvaccinated is “probably inevitable”. Upper Austria, which has a population of 1.5 million, needs the green light from the federal government before it brings in a lockdown on Monday.
That could mean people who have not been vaccinated will not be able to leave home, unless for essential reasons such as going to work, buying food or 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 has not been vaccinated or has recovered from Covid will have to quarantine for 10 days.