Variant causes half of new Dutch cases

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The coronavirus mutation from Britain has caused half of all new infections in the Netherlands, Dutch health minister Hugo de Jonge says.

Last week, health authorities said the new, more contagious variant was responsible for around a third of all new infections in the Netherlands.

The British mutation was seen to be almost 50 per cent more contagious than the older variant, De Jonge wrote in a letter to parliament.

The Dutch government has repeatedly warned that new mutations could lead to a new wave of infections in the coming weeks, despite a steady drop in the number of COVID-19 cases since the start of the year.

To stop the spread of new mutations, a night curfew was added to an already broad lockdown last week.

Dutch police have already issued nearly 16,000 fines for violations of the curfew.

Mass protests against the curfew, which begins at 9 pm and ends at 4.30 am, degenerated into rioting, looting and attacks on the police in several cities.

But in a first step towards easing measures, the government on Sunday decided to reopen primary schools as of next week, as young children were still seen to be playing only a marginal role in the transmission of the disease.

Dutch media on Monday reported that the government was also considering scrapping the curfew early next week.

On Monday, the number of new coronavirus infections in the Netherlands dropped to its lowest level in 4 months, at 3280.

Since the start of the pandemic almost 1 million coronavirus infections in the Netherlands have been reported, with over 14,000 deaths.