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Coronavirus: Netherlands begins imposing tough new five-week lockdown

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Long queues formed outside Amsterdam coffee shops and museums on Monday
Long queues formed outside Amsterdam coffee shops and museums on Monday   -   Copyright  Peter Dejong/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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The Netherlands begins introducing sweeping new coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday in a lockdown that will remain in place until the middle of January.

Schools, non-essential shops, museums and gyms are all closed. Primary and secondary schools will have to switch to distance learning and people will be urged to remain indoors as much as possible.

Officials said the lockdown was being introduced swiftly to avoid panic buying in the shops and will remain in place until January 19, 2021.

But queues formed on Monday afternoon at shops, museums and even coffee shops selling cannabis as people tried to beat the lockdown.

Peter Dejong/AP
Queues formed on Monday outside shops in Amsterdam in anticipation of the lockdownPeter Dejong/AP

Prime Minister Mark Rutte made the announcement in a televised address on Monday, while protesters could be heard blowing whistles outside.

"The Netherlands for five weeks is going into lockdown," he said.

"The reality is that this is is not an innocent flu as some people — like the demonstrators outside — think.

"But a virus that can hit everybody hard."

The Dutch broadcaster NOS said the measures were being taken amid a rapid rise in COVID-19 infections across the Netherlands.

The number of daily cases has surged despite government hopes to reduce them to around 3,600 by the middle of December.

On Sunday 9,937 tested positive for COVID-19, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.

The mass-circulation De Telegraaf also reported the expected closures under the headline: "Almost everything to close".