Covid-19: Curve is flattening, lockdown unnecessary says health agency

Artist's rendition of the coronavirus
Artist's rendition of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the Covid-19 coronavirus diseaselightsourceDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

A "flattening" of the Covid-19 infection curve may be starting to show itself, Jaap van Dissel of public health institute RIVM said to parliament on Wednesday. The number of coronavirus patients reported to municipal health services GGD, admitted to hospital, and admitted to intensive care are all leveling off, he said. But he added that these are provisional figures based only on patients who were officially tested, reports.

There seems to be a "kink" in the calculation models, Van Dissel said. "It looks like a kind of tilt, it seems to be leveling off. That will have to prove itself in the coming days," Van Dissel said. 

The infection rate - the number of people a Covid-19 patient infects - is also decreasing, according to the models. This indicates that the government's social-distancing measures are having an effect, Van Dissel said. But that does not mean the measures can be relaxed, he stressed. "You will have to keep going until the end," he told the parliamentarians. "Continuing the measures is crucial. The measures have an effect. Keep going."

The number of coronavirus patients admitted to hospitals in Noord-Brabant, the province first hit hardest by the virus, is decreasing, Van Dissel said. The number of admitted patients in Zuid-Holland are on the rise, and in the north of the country, numbers remain low. This is confirmation that the coronavirus in the Netherlands shows a divided picture, Van Dissel said.

There are concerns that the intensive care units will fill up quicker than expected, Van Dissel said about ICU capacity in the country. This is partly because the RIVM initially assumed that patients will recover faster than is proving to be the case. The RIVM first assumed that patients would be out of ICU in 10 days, instead they need three weeks of intensive care on average.

According to Van Dissel, the RIVM had no concrete data to make the initial forecast and relied on estimates from the World Health Organization. The Dutch data on the length of admission came in on March 19 and the models were adapted. 

Various parliamentarians wanted to know whether more measures should be taken, to make sure the Netherlands doesn't end up in a situation where the ICUs are overtaxed. Van Dissel said this was unnecessary, as long as people stick to the current measures - keep 1.5 meters apart, don't go outside if you're sick, wash your hands regularly, and avoid touching your face.