Experts want military part of coronavirus containment plan; Hospitals diagnose new cases

Stock image of a "Dutch" stethoscope
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The government must make use of the military to help care for the sick if the coronavirus turns into an epidemic, according to advice from experts in the so-called Outbreak Management Team to Medical Care Minister Bruno Bruins, which newspaper AD has in its possession. 

So far public health institute RIVM confirmed 23 Covid-19 diagnoses in the Netherlands. On Tuesday night, the Ikazia Hospital in Rotterdam reported that an 86-year-old patient from Hoekse Waard had been diagnosed with the virus. He was admitted to the hospital with urinary tract problems on Sunday and was tested for Covid-19 after he started showing respiratory problems, the hospital said, according to NU.nl. He is being treated in "strict isolation".

The Jeroen Bosch Hospital in Den Bosch also confirmed a Covid-19 diagnosis on Tuesday night. This resident of Bommelerwaardse Kerkwijk was admitted to hospital with flu-like symptoms on Friday.

The Dutch government held a crisis meeting on Tuesday to discuss how to proceed regarding the coronavirus. Afterwards, none of the Ministers involved would say much about what is discussed. Though Prime Minister Mark Rutte did say that they are preparing for the worst, but no drastic measures will be taken for the time being.

The advice from the Outbreak Management Team in AD's possession was sent to Bruins end February and was not published, the newspaper writes. It calls for barracks, nursing containers, and nursing tents to be used to care for infected patients in the event of an epidemic. The armed forces should be responsible for the tents and barracks. According to the experts, it is extremely important that locations are chosen in advance where special medical provisions can be made. 

The experts also call on the government to map out how many healthcare workers from private clinics and Defense can be deployed. A large number of medical specialists work for the armed forces, including specialized doctors, surgical assistants and nursing staff.

The Outbreak Management Team also said that the media should pay attention to the "importance of proper use of scarce personal protective equipment" like medical masks, and the "unnecessary use" should be discouraged. In a letter to parliament earlier this week, Bruins said: "I would like to emphasize once again that personal protective equipment is primarily needed to treat patients in the healthcare sector and offer little protection for general use. Use of it by the public is not a practical measure, according to the RIVM."

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