Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has held emergency meetings about the soaring rate of Covid-19 infections and was expected to announce tougher lockdown measures during a television address this evening.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has held emergency meetings about the soaring rate of Covid-19 infections and was expected to announce tougher lockdown measures during a television address this evening.
Key members of the Dutch government were considering stricter social curbs and Mr Rutte took the unusual step of inviting the heads of all political parties in parliament for talks, the national news agency ANP reported.
He was set to address the country from his office in a rare broadcast at 6pm Irish time.
New coronavirus infections in the country of 17 million jumped by almost 10,000 in the 24 hours through to yesterday morning, data released by national health authorities showed, the biggest rise in more than six weeks.
The Netherlands has recorded more than 600,000 cases and 10,000 deaths during the coronavirus pandemic.
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National broadcaster NOS, citing government sources, said measures could include the closure of all non-essential shops for several weeks and keeping schools shut beyond a two-week Christmas holiday starting on Friday.
Other public buildings, such as museums, cinemas and zoos, may also be closed, NOS reported.
Despite restrictions, shopping districts across the Netherlands have been crowded for weeks, with a spike in infections after the 5 December gift-giving celebrations marking the birthday of Saint Nicholas.
Germany likely to be under lockdown until early next year 
Germany is unlikely to lift its coronavirus lockdown early next year, a top aide to Chancellor Angela Merkel said, signalling Europe’s biggest economy will have to contend with restrictions well into the winter months.
Ms Merkel and German state leaders agreed to shut most stores from Wednesday until 10 January to reverse a tide of Covid-19 infections.
“A comprehensive easing is very, very unlikely,” Helge Braun, the chancellor’s chief of staff, told the RTL broadcaster.
“January and February are always difficult months in terms of respiratory tract infections.”
Under the stricter rules, only essential shops such as supermarkets and pharmacies, as well as banks, are to remain open from 16 December.  Hair salons, beauty salons, and tattoo parlours will also have to shut.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases reported more than 16,000 new cases and 188 deaths today, almost half the daily infections reported late last week. But the drop could be linked to fewer tests being carried out and less data being transferred to the RKI during the weekend.
Ms Merkel had hoped that a “lockdown lite” imposed in November would significantly bring down infections to a level that allowed Germans to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s under almost normal circumstances.
But those hopes have been dashed by stubbornly high infection numbers that gave the chancellor, whose fourth and last term ends in less than a year, no choice but to seek a hard lockdown.