Drop in new Covid-19 hospitalizations levels off; 147 more have died

Doctor's hand holding a surgical mask in front of the Dutch flag
Doctor's hand holding a surgical mask in front of the Dutch flagAlexanderPiragisDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

Another 147 people infected with coronavirus have died, and another 308 people have been hospitalized with respiratory illness Covid-19, Dutch public health agency RIVM reported on Wednesday. People who have been infected with the coronavirus, but only had mild symptoms may not be immune to Covid-19 after their recovery, RIVM director Jaap van Dissel revealed during his weekly update to parliament on Wednesday.

So far, the country has tested just over a hundred thousand people for the viral infection since the last week of February. In total, 20,549 people have tested positive, an increase of 969 since data released on Tuesday. Statistics related to hospitalizations, patients with a fatal outcome, and testing often stretches back several days, with Wednesday's update including changes dating back at least to March 18.

Preliminary statistics show that 104 people were admitted into hospital on Tuesday, and 171 a day earlier. Both numbers are likely to rise as the health agency receives new data from medical facilities. If the numbers continue to remain at roughly those levels, Tuesday would mark the seventh straight day were hospitalizations have fallen. To date, 7,735 who tested positive have been hospitalized at some point, with about 3,000 still being treated in a medical facility on Tuesday.

At least 54 people who tested positive for coronavirus died on Tuesday, and 115 the day before that. At those levels, it means the Netherlands has had five straight days where the number of deceased patients fell, with adjustments to prior data releases taken into account.

Of the country's 2,248 deaths tied to the virus, 12 were between the ages of 25 and 49. A 29-year-old Noord-Brabant man was the youngest person to die from the disease, as of Wednesday morning. Another 52 of those who died were in their fifties, 206 were in their sixties, and 678 were in their seventies. About 1,300, or roughly 57 percent, were aged 80 and over.

In the provinces

About 4,800 people living in the southern province of Noord-Brabant have tested positive for coronavirus, roughly 23 percent of all patients in the country. The province is still home to more patients than any of the other 11 provinces, but a far fewer percentage of patients reside there than the 45 percent seen on March 12.

"These differences can be explained by the fact that the distribution of the new coronavirus is not the same everywhere in the Netherlands," the RIVM said. "The epidemic appears to be leveling off in Noord-Brabant. The number of reports in the north of the Netherlands is stable at low levels."

Zuid-Holland is home to 3,750 patients, Noord-Holland to 3,150, Gelderland to 2,400, and 2,200 live in Limburg. Noord-Brabant was the first province in the Netherlands to get a stay-at-home advice, which took place on March 6. The same advice rolled out nationwide on March 12.

Immunity and ICU status: New testimony in Parliament

Research is currently being done into how immune people who recovered from Covid-19 are against the disease now, Van Dissel said to the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, according to NOS. The conclusion so far is that the more severe an infection was, the higher the number of antibodies against the virus the patient has. Fewer antibodies were found in people who only had mild symptoms. This raised doubt about whether people with mild symptoms built immunity and can therefore no longer get or spread the virus. The research is still ongoing. 

The large increases in the number of coronavirus diagnoses and hospital admissions appears to have reversed, Van Dissel said. According to him, the infection curve is really flattening. "That's a good thing, but that doesn't mean we can let go of all the measures," he stressed. It is crucial that Netherlands residents keep sticking to the social distancing measures in place, he said. 

Diederik Gommers of intensive care association NCIV also told parliament that the curve is getting flatter. More people are still being admitted to ICU than are being discharged, but this increase has been slowing down steadily since the weekend, he said to the Kamer. According to Gommers, the number of Covid-19 patients that need intensive care is lower than expected, and the picture looks very different from last week. "That makes it difficult to make policy," Gommers said, according to NU.nl. "The danger is that if you relax the rules, you will get an increase again."

Gommers said he hopes that the strict rules regarding visiting coronavirus patients in ICU can be relaxed in the near future. Such visits are currently severely restricted. Gommers called the current restrictions "impractical and almost inhumane", NOS wrote. According to him, it does not only affect the patients and their loved ones, but also the doctors and nurses working in intensive care. The NVIC will look into relaxing these measures somewhat as soon as there is some breathing room, Gommers said. "But what we were used to, that someone could be with their loved one in intensive care all day, is still a long way off. We are looking for small steps to work towards that," Gommers said.