Dutch medical experts ask government to postpone reopening schools
In a letter to the Cabinet on Tuesday titled “Playing with fire”, the Red Team, an independent group of medical experts and scientists, strongly advised the government to reconsider opening schools back up in mid-January. The schools were closed when the Cabinet ordered a hard lockdown earlier this month as coronavirus cases sharply escalated.
The organization believes that if schools were to reopen while the number of infections has not yet gone down, an “exponential spread” of the virus will occur. The doctors are particularly concerned because new mutations of the virus, such as those found primarily in South Africa and the United Kingdom.
“The new variants are almost certainly more infectious than the dominant variant in the Netherlands”, so Red Team. A preliminary report conducted by the Imperial College in London, states that the new variant is especially contagious amongst children under the ages of 15. Research has shown that the UK variant is about 70 percent more contagious than what is most prevalent in the Netherlands.
Children do not often feel the effects of the coronavirus in the same way as adults, especially the elderly and those in vulnerable health. However, the organization warns that they do not live in a bubble. The medical team states that an essential part of protecting the elderly is by combatting the spread amongst children.
While most deaths in the Netherlands from Covid-19 have occurred in coronavirus patients who were over 70, younger people are not immune to a fatal outcome. After an outbreak at the Willibrord Basisschool near Rotterdam at the end of November, a 38-year-old teacher died from the disease. It is not yet clear if she died from a mutated variant, though five people linked to the school were infected with the UK strain.
The Red Team wants the government to postpone reopening schools until further studies on the new variants are completed, and infection rates remain below 20 per 100 thousand inhabitants for 14 days, equivalent to about 3,500 per day. The Dutch seven-day average stood at about 9,500 on Wednesday.