The Dutch government on Friday outlawed traditional fireworks over New Year for a second year in a row, as hospital workers battle a record surge of Covid-19 infections.
New Year’s celebrations in the Netherlands are notoriously wild, with people setting off tens of millions of euros worth of fireworks in back gardens and streets, often causing injuries.
That threatens to clash with a new surge in coronavirus infections, with some 21,000 new cases reported in the last 24 hours — the highest since the start of the pandemic.
Just like last year, the sale and lighting of fireworks will be banned,” the Dutch government said in a statement.
“This to prevent an extra burden on care workers, enforcers and paramedics as much as possible,” the statement said.
Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said “the number of coronavirus patients are rapidly increasing.”
“We must do everything we can to relieve the pressure. Healthcare is already busy,” he said in a tweet.
The Netherlands last week announced a partial lockdown targeting shops, restaurants, bars and sports clubs as cases rocketed, the first to do so in Western Europe.
More than 12.6 million people in the country of 17.5 million have now been vaccinated, but concerns are mounting that the virus was now spreading among children younger than the current vaccination age of 12 years.
Bars, restaurants, cafes and supermarkets will have to shut at 8 pm for the next three weeks from Saturday, while non-essential shops must shut at 6 pm.
Last year Dutch Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus said anyone breaching the ban would be liable for a 100 euro ($118) fine and a criminal record. It was unclear whether the same fines will apply for this year.
Although fireworks have been set off for centuries in the Netherlands, it has been particularly popular at New Year’s since the 1950s.
The Dutch fondness for fireworks turns streets to battlefields as rival groups of revellers fire them at each other, flooding emergency wards with people with burn injuries of missing limbs.
At the end of 2019, more than 1,300 people had to be treated for fireworks-related injuries.
“Just like last year, fireworks sellers will receive appropriate compensation,” the government said.