Dutch experts advise against easing COVID curbs for Christmas - media

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Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch medical experts have advised the government against easing social distancing measures in the run-up to Christmas as a decline of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands has slowed over the past week, broadcaster RTL reported on Tuesday.

The government's main coronavirus advisory board said it was too early to contemplate the reopening of bars and restaurants or lifting limits on group sizes for the holiday season, RTL said, citing the committee's latest confidential advice.

The experts also said they would try to determine whether the Christmas school holiday would need to be extended in order to bring down the infection rate in the country, as a growing number of children were testing positive for COVID-19.

There was no immediate comment from Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government, which has said it will decide on policy for the Christmas holidays by Dec. 8. It is expected to request updated advice from its expert committee by that time.

Over the past week a total of 36,931 new infections were reported in the Netherlands, health authorities said on Tuesday, down 2% from the previous week.

The number of new cases in the past week mainly involved children aged 13-17 while they fell in all older age groups, the National Institute for Public Health said.

Infections had been declining much faster in previous weeks, after peaking at around 67,500 in the week through Oct. 27.

Bars and restaurants in the Netherlands have been shut since mid-October in an effort to stop the spread of the disease while groups of no more than four people are allowed to meet outdoors and the number of house guests is capped at three.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Mark Heinrich)