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Dutch coronavirus infections rise ahead of lockdown easing

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch public health institute said Thursday that 9,648 new coronavirus infections were recorded over the past 24 hours, in the highest daily increase since January. The news came just days before planned relaxations in the country’s months-long lockdown.

The national care authority also said the high numbers of COVID-19 patients mean that more than one third of hospitals no longer have the capacity to carry out planned critical care and nearly all hospitals are delaying less urgent medical procedures.

“The COVID number in ICUs is high and on a rising trend,” the National Coordination Center for Patient Distribution said in a statement. The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units rose by 17 to 839 over the past 24 hours, the centre added.

The nation is preparing to ease its lockdown next week.

Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced Tuesday that the nationwide 10:30 p.m.-4:30 a.m. curfew in force since January will be scrapped on April 28, when bars and restaurants will be allowed to reopen their outdoor terraces — under strict conditions — from noon until 6 p.m.

Shoppers will no longer have to make an appointment to visit non-essential stores, though the number of customers per shop will still be tightly limited.

Rutte on Tuesday called the decision a balancing act between the "grim reality" in hospitals and cautious optimism that the peak in hospital admissions was approaching.

Bars and other hospitality venues have been closed since mid-October and have for weeks been urging a re-opening.

In a debate in Parliament, opposition Labor Party leader Lilianne Ploumen urged the government to call off the relaxations.

The 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in Netherlands rose over the past two weeks from 40.8 new cases per 100,000 people on April 7 to 47.9 new cases per 100,000 people on April 21.


Follow all of AP's pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

The Associated Press