Dutch schools to stay closed at least until February 8
Primary schools and childcare facilities in the Netherlands will remain closed until Monday, February 8, the Dutch government announced on Sunday after members of the outgoing Cabinet met with advisors from the Outbreak Management Team (OMT). Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said earlier this month that they hoped the schools could open back up on January 25, two weeks before the projected end of the lockdown.
With the lengthier school shutdown, the outgoing Cabinet was looking at how it might be able to arrange paid or partially paid coronavirus leave for parents forced to combine caring for their children with their jobs. “I realize this is a blow to parents, teachers and students. Helping your children with school while you have to do your work at the same time is very hard,” said Arie Slob, the caretaker Education Minister.
The government made the decision based on advice from the OMT, emphasizing that it was an important way of reducing the amount of close-contact moments between adults, which “should be avoided as much as possible. Organized urgent care will continue for children who are disadvantaged or in a vulnerable circumstance, or whose parents work in a critical job.
The OMT said it has not yet found evidence proving that children are more susceptible to contracting the B117 mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection than the variant more common to the Netherlands, but it also said there were still too many unknown factors. Previously, Rutte said that the decision to reopen schools early would be primarily based on research into the spread of the B117 variant, a more contagious version of the coronavirus which quickly spread through the United Kingdom.
After an outbreak at a schools near Rotterdam, a study looking at B117 infections among residents of Lansingerland, Zuid-Holland was being carried out by the Erasmus Medical Center, the GGD municipal health service there, and public health agency RIVM. That study began over a week ago.
“There are also too many concerns about the number of infections in the Netherlands and the spread of new variants of the virus in society,” the government said in its statement. “The opening of primary education and childcare will be included in the reconsideration of all lockdown measures, which apply until at least 8 February.”
Secondary schools were already included on the list of locations closed up to that date.