Another spike in coronavirus cases takes Dutch total to 959; 12 dead overall

A hospital isolation room
A hospital isolation roomsudok1DepositPhotosDeposit Photos

A total of 959 people in the Netherlands have tested positive for the coronavirus strain which causes Covid-19, figures released on Saturday by public health agency RIVM show. It was an increase of 155, or 16 percent, over the 804 positive tests reported on Friday. That day set the country's benchmark for the largest single-day increase in patients at 190, and the smaller increase on Saturday is likely because of a policy shift about who gets tested in the Netherlands.

The RIVM reported that two more patients have died, raising the death toll to 12. Most of those had underlying health conditions, but at least one fatal case was specifically tied to Covid-19 on Saturday.

Two patients whose deaths were reported on Saturday include a male resident of an Eindhoven assisted living facility who passed away "from the consequences of coronavirus," said Vitalis, the parent organization of the retirement home. He was being treated in an isolated room and was transferred to a hospital as his condition deteriorated.

There he tested positive for coronavirus. "It is unclear where and when the man contracted the virus," Vitalis said.

A 70-year-old woman with other underlying health complaints also passed away on Saturday. She was one of three patients at the Bravis Ziekenhuis in Roosendaal to test positive for the virus.

It is not clear if the deaths of the man and woman were included in the new statistics from the RIVM. The health agency maintained its position that all fatal victims had underlying health issues that contributed to their deaths.

"Fewer new positive tests were reported today than yesterday. An explanation is that the test policy has been adjusted," the RIVM said. A spokesman previously told NL Times on Friday that it was modifying its stance on who should be tested.

The goal is to first test those with the most urgent needs, process those tests more quickly, and reduce the strain on laboratory capacity. The number of unchecked samples in the Netherlands was piling up by midweek, and at one point 6,000 tests had been completed while thousands more were still awaiting results.

The RIVM said on Saturday it changed its working method on Thursday. "From March 12, people with mild complaints will no longer be tested, because there is a national policy to stay at home when first symptoms arise," the agency said. "In addition, more is being tested among risk groups."

The government's call on people to reduce their social contact with others has likely not had a measurable impact on positive test cases, because it was just introduced to the public on Thursday, the RIVM said.

Of the 959 positive test cases, 136 have required treatment in a hospital. The figures include the 12 people who died with the virus.

The Netherlands' first Covid-19 diagnosis was on February 27th. In the first week after that diagnosis, the number of patients jumped to 82 on March 5th, and then to 614 on March 12th. As the coronavirus continued to spread through the country, the government took more and more drastic measures. On Thursday, the Prime Minister announced a new set of measures, calling on anyone with flu-like symptoms to stay home, to work from home as much as possible, and for events with more than 100 people to be canceled. 

The virus, and measures taken to curb its spread, is also having an effect on the Dutch economy. The travel industry, and entertainment and hospitality sectors are in the most trouble. But Klaas Knot, president of Dutch central bank DNB, said on Thursday that he cannot rule out that the Covid-19 crisis will push the Dutch economy into a recession. 

As of 12:30 p.m. on Friday, 5 thousand Dutch companies have applied for working time reductions, according to NOS. Through this measure, an employer can send employees who have nothing to do home, or have them work shorter hours. The employee will receive a benefit payment for the missed-hours, but still remains fully employed by the company. Working time reduction is an existing measure that is used by an average of 100 to 200 companies a year, according to the broadcaster. 

Before the Council of Ministers meeting on Friday, Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven of Education, Culture and Science said that no people or institutions in the cultural sector can fall due to the consequences of the coronavirus. "This is very intense. I will meet with the sector on Monday," she said to NOS. "We need to find out where this is leading and what the consequences are."