Pressure on hospitals may yet increase warns head of the National Network for Acute Care
The mutated variant of the coronavirus that came from the UK could lead to a new wave of infections in the Netherlands in March. Ernst Kuipers, chairman of the National Network for Acute Care (LNAZ), warns that this could increase the pressure on hospitals already under enormous stress.
The LNAZ has calculated what the consequences of the British variant could be, so that the government and healthcare workers can prepare. The government assumes that three to five percent of all positively tested people now have the British variant. That mutation is much more contagious than previous versions of the virus.
According to the calculations, there could be a point in mid-March when the UK variant would become the dominant strain among the infections in the Netherlands. More than 200,000 people would be infected simultaneously, and significantly more than 10,000 people would test positive each day. As a result, more than 3000 people would require hospital treatment in the second half of March. Now that number is around 2500. “At that stage, the care for corona patients, regular care, or both will be stuck. If you look at the proportions, the current set of measures is not enough,” says Kuipers.
These are speculations, he emphasizes. The exact consequences depend on how many people already have the new variant and how quickly it spreads.
Kuipers advocates for a strict lockdown to prevent disaster scenarios as much as possible. A curfew would be desirable, he said. Targeted isolation of people could also be a possibility. In the meantime, as many people as possible should be vaccinated as quickly as possible. That would hopefully keep the number of infections low enough so that hospitals can keep up until spring and summer. “That is how we prevent the disruption of society,” says Kuipers.
Spread of the new variant
The UK variant has been spreading in the Netherlands. It was diagnosed at a hospital in Zeeland and an institution for mentally disabled people in Gelderland on Saturday. Earlier this week, the new variant was also detected in a nursing home in Friesland.
The Outbreak Management Team, which advises the cabinet on how to tackle the coronavirus crisis, will meet again on Sunday at the Prime Minister’s residence. It will be the first meeting since the fall of the cabinet on Friday. Kuipers says he is less concerned about the consequences of the political situation. “We must be able to act decisively. We are in a race against time for two things: On the one hand, the rate at which we can vaccinate. On the other hand, the spread of a variant which is much more contagious. It goes so fast; a week delay is a lot. I am convinced that the cabinet is well aware of this, as is the House of Representatives.”