Rutte: Lockdown still possible; Partial lockdown at least through November
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said the Cabinet decided against tightening up social restrictions in the Netherlands, and would instead wait up to one week to announce a decision. The two spoke at a media briefing two weeks after a partial lockdown was implemented in the Netherlands, with Rutte saying, "It is too early to draw any conclusions, to slam on the brakes."
The 25-minute briefing was held hours after a report was released by public health agency RIVM that showed 67,542 people tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection for the week ending Tuesday morning. "The numbers remain high and have to go down," Rutte said.
De Jonge said the current partial lockdown, including the shutdown of dine-in restaurant and bar service, cancellation of events, and strict reductions in group sizes, was unlikely to be loosened up before the start of December, and even then life might not return to normal until after the country ushers in the new year. "Until then it is necessary to stick to the measures. Until then it is a matter of persevering, even if we are fed up," De Jonge said.
Rutte said a full press conference would be convened next Tuesday, "unless we must act sooner." He reiterated that people in the Netherlands must comply with the existing coronavirus rules, and not try to push the boundaries of those limitations. "The most important thing we can improve remains our own behavior," he said.
The alternative, he said, is the "specter of a complete lockdown." Both he and De Jonge emphasized again that all options were on the table, if necessary, to bring down the number of infections, the percentage of those testing positive for the infection, and the basic reproduction number of the virus.
While last week's total number of new infections was up 21.5 percent compared to the previous week, the rate of increase showed signs of stabilizing, and the reproduction number of the virus fell again, this time to 1.16. This suggests that 100 contagious people will infect 116 others.
Those somewhat brighter spots were as expected by Rutte and De Jonge as a sign that the partial lockdown introduced on October 14 might be working, and more time is needed to gauge its impact on the spread of the virus.
On the other hand, the number of people tested for the virus who come back with a positive diagnosis rose to nearly 18 percent, and there were far more contagious people, 160 thousand, compared to a week ago. On top of that, Covid-19 deaths reported rose 78 percent to 329. New hospitalizations went up by 16.5 percent with at least 1,739 people admitted.
So far, more people were tested positive for the infection in October than in the months of June, July, August and September combined, data from the RIVM showed.
Because of that, people are unlikely to be able enjoy the holidays with their families and friends. Rutte predicted three guests maximum in people's households for Sint Maarten or Sinterklaas only. "It's still too early to tell about Christmas," Rutte stated.