AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch government may impose new coronavirus restrictions to reduce pressure on hospitals struggling to deal with a swelling number of COVID-19 patients, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said on Monday.
Coronavirus infections in the Netherlands have been rising for a month and reached their highest level since July in recent days, after most social distancing measures were dropped in late September.
The new wave of infections has driven up the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals faster than predicted this month, De Jonge said, and many hospitals are already cutting back regular care again to deal with coronavirus cases.
The government has asked its group of health experts to advise on possible new measures and will decide on its policy on Nov. 2, De Jonge said, without specifying the options.
"It's not easy to find new measures that work, as it's mainly unvaccinated people who need care, who have the highest risk of getting infected and of infecting others," De Jonge said.
The Dutch government eased most COVID-19 restrictions on Sept. 25 and introduced a "corona pass" showing proof of vaccination or a recent negative test as a requirement for visitors to bars, restaurants, clubs or cultural events.
Since then, infections in the country of 17.5 million have increased and they jumped 75% relative to a week before on Sunday to 6,350. The number of COVID-19 related deaths reported over the weekend more than doubled to 25.
Four out of five COVID-19 patients on Dutch intensive care wards have not been vaccinated, the National Institute for Public Health said last week.
According to government data, 84.5% of the Dutch adult population has been fully vaccinated.
(Reporting by Bart Meijer, Editing by William Maclean)