"Social bubbles" suggested to limit contact in Covid pandemic
Jaap van Dissel of public health institute RIVM told parliament on Wednesday that the source of 36 percent of last week's coronavirus infections was traced to "visitors at home". Pediatrician and epidemiologist Patricia Bruijning of UMC Utrecht thinks the Netherlands can reduce social contacts by following Belgium's example and creating "social bubbles", she said to NOS.
Currently, the Netherlands' lockdown rules state that you can receive two guests aged 13 and over at home. Children aged 12 and below are exempted from the household guest limit. "If you receive a family every day, with two parents and three children, then you're sticking to the rules completely. But then you still have a lot of contacts," Bruijning said.
The Belgian social bubble system still allows a certain number of guests, but during a fixed period - two weeks for example - they must always be the same people. "It is never entirely possible to find out [if people are sticking exactly to those rules]; but you can see that they now have better control of the infections in Belgium,' Bruijning said. In the last week of 2020, the number of infections per 100,000 residents in Belgium was over four times lower than in the Netherlands, according to the broadcaster.
Another point where the Dutch rules could be tightened, in order to reduce social contacts, is by banning children's parties, she added. "I also see in my own environment that there are sometimes children's parties. Then there can be children from many different families together, as long as the adults come from one family. You're sticking to the rules completely, but it is the question whether that is in the spirit of the rules. You could then say: fine that children are excluded, but in the case of visitors it must be children who belong to the adults of one other family."
Encouraging people to meet outside could also help, Bruijning said to the broadcaster. "The chance of getting infected outside is about 18 to 20 percent smaller than inside. And yet outside you can only meet with two people, while you can receive many more people inside. If all social contacts were to take place outside, there would be much less infections."