Dutch mull lockdown, China eyes food trade

·3-min read

Dutch authorities are considering a recommendation to impose a partial lockdown while a Chinese port city has suspended all handling of imported chilled and frozen foods amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A pandemic advisory panel in the Netherlands on Thursday recommended imposing western Europe's first partial lockdown since the northern hemisphere summer, putting pressure on the government to take unpopular action to fight a COVID-19 surge.

Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte's cabinet is expected to decide on Friday on measures following the recommendation of the Outbreak Management Team, broadcaster NOS reported.

The government often follows the expert panel's recommendations.

Steps under consideration include cancelling events, closing theatres and cinemas, and earlier closing times for cafes and restaurants, the NOS report said.

Schools would remain open.

After a partial lockdown of about two weeks, entrance to public places should be limited to people who have been fully vaccinated or have recently recovered from a coronavirus infection, according to the advice.

Even as infections spike to record levels, many developed countries have taken the view vaccine rollouts mean lockdowns are unnecessary.

The United Kingdom is relying on booster shots to increase immunity and to try to avoid overwhelming its healthcare system.

The Netherlands has so far provided booster shots to a small group of people with weak immune systems.

It will start offering them to people aged 80 years and older in December while extra shots will eventually be available for anyone older than 60.

Despite an adult vaccination rate nearing 85 per cent, hospitals in parts of the Netherlands have been forced to scale back regular care to treat COVID-19 patients.

Last month, roughly 56 per cent of Dutch COVID-19 patients in hospitals and 70 per cent of those in intensive care were unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated.

Unvaccinated COVID-19 patients in Dutch hospitals had a median age of 59, compared to 77 years for vaccinated patients, data provided by the Netherlands' Institute for Health (RIVM) showed.

Last week, the Netherlands re-introduced masks and expanded the list of venues that require a "corona pass" that demonstrates vaccination or a negative test result, to gain access.

New coronavirus infections in the country of 17.5 million have roughly doubled in the last week to more than 400 per 100,000 inhabitants, and are as high as in the worst weeks of December last year.

The Chinese port city Dalian has ordered all businesses handling imported chilled and frozen foods to suspend operations after an outbreak of COVID-19 that began last week.

The city on China's northeast coast has reported more than 80 COVID-19 cases over the past week, with the first in a warehouse worker in the Zhuanghe area of the city on November 4.

Local authorities issued the order on Monday, state-backed newspaper Global Times reported on Thursday.

Unlike other countries, China says frozen foods pose a risk of spreading COVID-19 and authorities reject goods from overseas if the virus is detected on packaging, even though the World Health Organisation says neither food nor packaging is a known transmission route.

Dalian is a leading port for seafood shipments as well as fruit and some meats.

The suspension covers third-party cold storage facilities, bonded warehouses, food production companies and cold storage used by the catering sector, according to a notice posted on local industry websites that could not be verified by Reuters.

Dalian's food sector also faced heavy disruption last year after authorities issued new requirements for cold storage warehouses because of the risk of the coronavirus entering the country on imported foods.

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