Coronavirus claims 134 more lives, including one in their 30's; Some 66K have been tested

Amsterdam street largely abandoned due to coronavirus restrictions, 18 March 2020
Amsterdam street largely abandoned due to coronavirus restrictions, 18 March 2020DedMityayDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

With reporting by Jamie de Geir and Zack Newmark.

Another 134 people succumbed to the coronavirus, brining the total number of Covid-19 deaths in the Netherlands to 1,173, public health substitute RIVM said on Wednesday. Two people who died were under the age of 50, the RIVM said. One was a man between the ages of 35 and 39, while the other was a woman between 45 and 49. 

Until Tuesday, all of those in the Netherlands who tested positive for the virus and later died had been 50 years of age or older. Both of the younger patients who died had "serious underlying health problems," the agency said.

The number of coronavirus related hospitalizations increased by 447 to 5,159. A total of 13,614 people in the country have now tested positive for the virus, an increase of 1,019 compared to Wednesday.

"The numbers of reported hospital admissions and reports of death are lower today than yesterday," the RIVM said. It reminded people that delays in reporting mean the reported increases did not necessarily take place since Tuesday morning, but were spread out over several days. The delays were attributed to the excessive workloads at hospitals and medical facilities in the country.

Massive increase in testing planned

The RIVM also said that 65,972 people in the Netherlands have been tested through early Wednesday. Over 43 percent of those tests were carried out in the last ten days, according to new figures from the agency.

The data showed that the RIVM last week began increasing its testing, nearly diagnosing four thousand people on March 24, but then gradually slowed down into the weekend. Monday and Tuesday the RIVM registered a little over three thousand tests each day.

In a letter to Parliament, and in a televised press conference on Tuesday, Helath Minister Hugo de Jonge said that country was currently testing four thousand people daily. “By further optimizing the current test capacity and purchase of new equipment, the current test capacity can be increased to 10,000 tests / day,” he wrote. He said that by mid-April, the country's health technicians should be able to carry out 17,500 tests daily.

This will be accomplished, he said, by reallocating resources used for diagnosing HPV, and getting assistance from the Sanquin blood bank network. Those two alone will account for an additional 2,400 and 3,600 tests per day, respectively, he said. The Wageningen Bioveterinary Research and the Animal Health Service in Deventer will also run up to 1,500 tests daily, the minister said.

"Besides testing for infection, the eventual use of serological testing is important to eventually determine immunity, so that control measures can be relaxed and social life can be resumed," he said.

Patients in intensive care

As of 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, there were 1,152 Covid-19 patients being treated in ICUs in the Netherlands, according to figures from foundation NICE. Around 500 beds were in use for patients with other illnesses.

Hospitals are currently scaling up to 2,400 ICU beds, which means that intensive care patients are also being treated in other hospital departments outside the intensive care units, Diederik Gommers of intensive care association NVIC said to parliament on Wednesday.

He added that if more than 2,400 beds are needed, the Netherlands will be in trouble. "We don't know how to proceed further," Gommers said.

On Tuesday the government extended the measures in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus to April 28. Jaap van Dissel of the RIVM told parliament on Wednesday that the measures seem to be having an effect, and that initial figures show that the infection curve is leveling off. He also said that no further measures are needed, as long as everyone sticks to the measures already in place.