Dutch hospitals brace for wave of COVID-19 patients as cases jump

Members of the medical personnel wearing full protective suits are seen as they treat a patient in Maastricht

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Hospitals in the Netherlands on Tuesday said they would postpone all non-critical care the coming weeks in order to deal with the rapid rise in COVID-19 patients.

Coronavirus infections in the country jumped 42% to 83,240 in the week through Tuesday, the National Institute for Public Health said, following a string of record daily increases.

The Dutch government early last week imposed a tough five-week lockdown, closing all schools and non-essential stores, in an effort to curb the spread of the disease.

The Health Ministry on Tuesday said all Dutch hospitals would postpone non-critical care for an indefinite period of time, while the number of available intensive care beds in the country would be increased to 1,450.

The ministry said it had so far found two Dutch patients infected with a virulent variant of the coronavirus first discovered in Britain, which has prompted much of the world to cut off travel ties with the United Kingdom.

One of the patients had not recently been to Britain, health minister Hugo de Jonge told national news agency ANP.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Nick Macfie)