RIVM’s Van Dissel: Relax lockdown for vaccinated people in mid-February
Dutch virologist Jaap van Dissel said he believes the current coronavirus restrictions in the Netherlands can be loosened up in about six weeks, after the country’s vaccination drive is in full swing. The director at public health agency RIVM spoke to newspaper AD after the Netherlands had been in a hard lockdown for two weeks.
“We are going to vaccinate in January. A second dose will follow in the mid-February. So from that point onwards, partial relaxation is presumably possible for the groups that have been vaccinated,” Van Dissel said. He told AD that he and the other members of the Outbreak Management Team advising the Cabinet will have a difficult time determining the best path forward with the restrictions on society.
“How exactly do you recommend the right measures so that you can relax them without [infections] rising again so quickly? You would rather not go back into a hard lockdown.”
The Netherlands entered a partial lockdown in mid-October, and then a hard lockdown two months later when coronavirus infections surged quickly during the first two weeks of December. Now 15 days after the lockdown began, data from the RIVM shows a moving average of over 9,500 new infections per day.
The moving average is about eight times higher than the benchmark used by the RIVM to suggest new social restrictions to slow the spread of the virus. The current figure was also lower as fewer people scheduled a coronavirus test during the Christmas holidays.
Van Dissel said that the RIVM benchmarks about infections, Covid-19 hospitalizations, and ICU admissions may even be lowered further. He was concerned that the Netherlands might not introduce restrictions fast enough to slow a potential third wave of infections next year.
Van Dissel said that he understands that people are frustrated and fed up with the restrictions. “This has been going on for a long time, it is tiring,” he said. “Every now and then you just have had enough. It's a marathon, and then one where you still sprint from time to time,” he said.