Coronavirus: Ministry to hold emergency meeting over closing Dutch schools

Playground outside a school in Amsterdam Oost
Playground outside a school in Amsterdam OostNL TimesNL Times

Multiple health organizations will meet with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport on Sunday to discuss a call by healthcare experts to close all schools in the Netherlands. The meeting on Sunday afternoon was organized after leading medical specialists group FMS said shutting classroom doors was the safest decision possible in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

FMS held an online seminar Saturday morning with a thousand doctors about acute care for their patients suffering from Covid-19 symptoms. "As a result of this webinar, we are asking politicians whether there is indeed sufficient substantiation for the decision to keep the schools open? Many doctors are asking us to argue in favor of closing the schools," said Peter Paul van Benthem, head of FMS and an Ears, Nose, Throat specialist.

"Shouldn't we be on the safe side and immediately close all schools? We think so."

"Being on the safe side also means that public life will come to a standstill," the Ministry said in response. "And if the children were to stay at home, this would have a huge impact on many vital sectors, including healthcare."

The meeting will include the FMS, public health agency RIVM, the federation of university hospitals (NFU) and Dutch hospital association NVZ. They will all lay their cards on the table to determine the best course forward.

So far, the government's hesitation in closing the schools has been because it wanted to make sure people in essential roles, like first responders, could still perform their function instead of staying home. In justifying this, the government said children are not in a high risk group, and should be allowed to attend school to continue with their education.

"Based on the WHO studies, young people up to the age of 20 seem to be hardly affected by the virus, and they play only a very limited role in its spread," the Ministry said Saturday night.