Lockdowns Are Coming Back in Europe

Pedestrians wear face masks on a street in the center of Amsterdam. Photo: Remko De Waal/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

With COVID cases surging in the Netherlands, the country is heading back to a version of lockdown — even though more than 82 percent of its population over 12 years old has received two vaccine doses. It is the first such countrywide measure in Western Europe since the summer.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte is expected to announce the new restrictions on Friday evening. During a three-week period that begins on Saturday, restaurants and bars will have to close by 7 p.m. Sports will once again be played with zero fans in attendance, and gatherings inside homes are limited to four people. Restrictions may also be imposed on movie theaters and stage performances.

The Netherlands reported 16,364 cases on Thursday, the highest number since the pandemic began and a 33 percent increase from a week earlier. (Adjusted for population, this would be the equivalent of more than 300,000 cases in the U.S.)

In recent weeks, COVID cases have surged throughout Central and Eastern Europe and in the U.K. Some of the worst of the new COVID wave is taking place in places that are not heavily vaccinated, like Romania and other former Iron Curtain countries where vaccine skepticism runs high. But even in some far more inoculated countries like the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, and Austria, cases are spiking — which may bode poorly for the U.S., whose vaccination rate is considerably lower than most of Europe. (Though a higher percentage of the population may have developed immunity.)

German health officials are asking people to avoid large events, and in the coming days, Austria is likely to announce new lockdown measures that would only apply to the unvaccinated.

Lockdowns Are Coming Back in Europe