Mandatory quarantine for Covid-19 patient's close contacts
The government is implementing mandatory quarantine for people who had close contact with a Covid-19 patient, even if they themselves have not yet tested positive for the coronavirus, Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health said to parliament. These involve contacts identified by health service GGD through source and contact tracing. The Minister also wants to oblige all travelers coming from a Covid-19 hotspot to go into quarantine, instead of the current urgent advice to do so.
"In recent weeks we have heard from the GGDs that people are not cooperating properly with the source and contact investigation," De Jonge said. "That is our dyke improvement to prevent us from having a second wave." De Jonge wants to get rid of that non-committal attitude. "We have to make it more compulsory."
The government is therefore also considering an obligation to cooperate in source and contact tracing. This could be enforced by fining those who refuse, De Jonge said. "This would not be an alternative to the quarantine measure, but an additional tool to improve cooperation in both source and contact investigation and quarantine."
The forced quarantine measures will be implemented in phases, in consultation with the security regions and GGDs, starting from the second half of next week, De Jonge said. Using the Public Health Act, the Minister will give all security regions the instruction to regulate the mandatory quarantine for people who emerge from the source and contact tracing. As this is an existing law, it does not have to pass through parliament.
Forcing travelers from countries with a code orange travel advice to quarantine for two weeks will need a legislative amendment.
Not complying with forced quarantine is punishable, and the perpetrator can be brought to court. The Public Prosecution Service still has to work out what sentence will apply. "Forced quarantine is a harsh measure, but justified. Quarantine stops the spread of the virus, so compliance is crucial," De Jonge said.
The number of coronavirus cases in the Netherlands has been increasing again over the past weeks. Over 4 thousand people were diagnosed with Covid-19 last week, public health institute RIVM said on Tuesday. A week earlier, there were 2,600 new cases.
The number of hospitalizations and deaths are still much lower than they were in the first wave. Jaap van Dissel of the RIVM told parliament on Tuesday that this is likely because people who are getting infected now are much younger than those who got infected in the first wave. Younger patients have fewer underlying health problems, resulting in them being less likely to need hospital care.
Given the major increase in coronavirus cases, the GGDs are struggling with the increase of source and contact investigations that go along with it. The GGDs in Amsterdam and Rotterdam have had to scale down these investigations, and are currently only contacting people who tested positive for the virus. De Jonge said that the health services are working hard to scale up their capacity, an GGD Amsterdam and GGD Rotterdam are focused on returning to the normal source and contact tracing. Then all people who had close contact with a Covid-19 patient are called with the warning that they too may be infected.