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New restrictions in Netherlands as cases soar

Anna Holligan

BBC News Hague correspondent

Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte once described the Dutch approach to tackling Covid-19 as an "intelligent lockdown" and has been openly sceptical about the benefits of mask wearing. But as the Netherlands enters its second wave with some of the worst infection rates in Europe he had little choice but to tighten the rules.

For the first time since the start of the pandemic, people in Amsterdam, The Hague, Eindhoven and Rotterdam are being advised to wear face coverings in shops. Despite Mr Rutte's previous assertions that masks may even be counter-productive, this morning as I cycled by my local supermarket everyone I could see was abiding by the new guidance.

Restaurants and bars across the country must close by 22:00 local time (20:00 GMT). Fans are banned from attending sports events. Businesses such as hairdressers and dentists must log their clients contact details. People are encouraged to work from home and stay indoors if they have coronavirus-like symptoms.

This week the Netherlands broke its own daily infection record, and is expecting 5,000 new cases every day by next week. Hospital admissions have risen for the 26th consecutive day and ICU numbers are creeping up again.

Last night, standing alongside the prime minister, Health Minister Hugo de Jong said of the Dutch efforts, "We are doing our best, but the virus is doing better."

A woman inside a shop in The Hague