The Dutch hit the shops on Saturday as they prepared for a Christmas lockdown that is expected to close all but essential stores from Sunday, as the health minister said authorities were “extremely worried” about the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
The main shopping street in Leiden, 20 kilometres from the capital The Hague, was thronged with people looking for last-minute gifts. Some stores, selling toys or luxury skin care and cosmetics, had queues outside.
“It is normally busy before Christmas but this is much busier than usual,” cosmetics shop manager Ali Windster told Reuters.
Municipal authorities in the port city of Rotterdam urged shoppers via Twitter to stay at home because the city centre was “too busy”.
The government is meeting on Saturday with its health experts, who have recommended the closure of all non-essential shops, schools, bars, restaurants and other public venues.
“We are extremely worried,” about the possible spread of the Omicron variant, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge told journalists earlier on Saturday.
Stocking up on cosmetics in Windster’s Leiden shop was Carla Nekeman, who said she was preparing for a strict new lockdown.
“I am getting a lot of the stuff I need that I cannot get in the supermarket,” Nekeman said. “I will have to stand in lines everywhere.”
Health ministry spokesperson Axel Dees told Reuters there would be a government press conference to announce new measures at 7 PM (1800 GMT). He did not comment on the types of measures that would be announced.
Broadcasters NOS and RTL reported that the lockdown, which will also see hairdressers and gyms close their doors, would start early on Sunday morning and run until January 14.
It would come after the government on Tuesday extended the 5 PM. to 5 AM closure of bars, restaurants and most stores, introduced in late November, until January 14.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte said then that Omicron could be the dominant coronavirus variant in the Netherlands by January.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2021.