Coronavirus measures less effective than hoped: health institute

The results of measures taken by the government to curb the spread the coronavirus Covid-19 are starting to show, and they are less effective than public health institute RIVM had hoped. The institute now expects more people to end up in intensive care. "The most positive scenarios from last week will not come true," Jaco Wallinga of the RIVM said to NOS.

"In the most likely scenario, there will be 2,500 patients in intensive care in mid-April. That is quite a shift from last week," Wallinga said to the broadcaster. Last week the association of intensive care NVIC expected the peak in ICU patients to be around 2,200 at the end of May. And the RIVM hoped for around 1 thousand ICU patients in early April, but that number was already reached on Sunday

The higher number is partly due to the RIVM now expecting Covid-19 patients to need intensive care for longer. Last week the health institute worked on the assumption that Covid-19 patients who end up in ICU will need to stay there for 10 days. Now that assumption has been adjusted to 23 days. That means many more people in the ICU at the same time. The increase in patients admitted to the ICU also happened faster than expected over the past days, according to NOS.

"All you can do now is increase capacity," Wallinga said when asked whether further measures need to be taken. "The patients who will be in intensive care in two weeks time are already infected. Taking new measures has no effect for these people."

On the plus side, the expected "flattening of the curve" has happened, Wallinga also said to NOS based on the number of hospital admissions. When measures were taken in mid-March, the infection rate - how many people a Covid-19 patient infects - dropped from nearly two to just below one, Wallinga said. However, that decline took longer than predicted. "The growth rate is slowing, but it is still higher than we thought."

Diederik Gommers of the NVIC told parliament last week that the Dutch healthcare system simply can't handle a scenario with between 2,500 and 3 thousand people in ICU. "I don't think buying more equipment will achieve that. I think Dutch healthcare can't handle it," he said. 

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