Netherlands preparing for mass Covid-19 outbreak, but no drastic measures yet, PM says

If the coronavirus continues to spread in the Netherlands, the authorities have measures ready to take the next step, Prime Minister Mark Rutte assured after a crisis meeting on Tuesday. For the time being, the government will continue to focus on curbing Covid-19. Schools will stay open and events can continue as planned for now, he said. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs updated its travel advice for Italy, warning travelers to only visit Northern Italy if absolutely necessary, RTL Nieuws reports.

"Unfortunately, I cannot guarantee that there will be no more patients The counter is expected to rise. The whole approach is aimed at keeping the situation under control," Rutte said. "But children can now go to school as usual, and meetings can continue as usual." The government also considers it unnecessary to start canceling events, as other countries have done. "A follow-up scenario is being considered. I'm not going to say anything about that now."

So far 23 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus Covid-19 in the Netherlands. On Tuesday afternoon, health service RIVM reported 24 diagnoses, but reduced that number by one after new tests showed that the toddler aged son of an infected couple in Diemen does not have the virus after all. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs updated its travel advice for Northern Italy, warning travelers to stay away unless absolutely necessary. Thousands of people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in the region and 79 people have died. The vast majority of patients in the Netherlands visited the region or had contact with someone who did. 

The "only if absolutely necessary" travel advice applies to the Aosta Valley, Piedmont, Lombardy, Trentino-South Tyrol, Friuli-Julian-Venezia, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, and Liguria regions. The warning level for these regions have been upgraded to code orange. 

Around 900 members of Groningen student association Vindicat went skiing in Northern Italy, despite the area already being designated a Covid-19 risk area when they departed. The students are set to return home on Sunday. They will have to "keep an eye on themselves" when they return home, RIVM director Jaap van Dissel said in a conversation with parliament. Should they notice cold symptoms, they should apply "social distancing" - isolate themselves and don't make contact with anyone new. 

Doctors in the Netherlands are being swamped with phone calls from nervous patients with questions about the coronavirus. The Dutch association for general practitioners LHV calls on concerned people to first call the national Covid-19 helpline with their questions. That helpline can be reached at 0800-1351.