Experts warn against relaxing lockdown further at this stage
While the coronavirus situation in hospitals is stable at the moment, the numbers of infections and contagious people are still high. It is therefore not advisable to relax the measures against the spread of the virus any further at the moment, both Ernst Kuipers of national acute care network LNAZ and Jaap van Dissel of public health institute RIVM said in a briefing to parliament on Wednesday, NOS reports.
The number of coronavirus-related hospital admissions has been stable, with some small fluctuations, from the second week of February. Kuipers called that favorable, but added that "the occupancy is still high". According to him, all hospitals can currently perform acute and semi-acute care. And surgery care is about 21 percent lower than normal. "That is significantly better than in December," he said to parliament.
Kuipers expects that a clear effect of the vaccination program will become visible next month. The government aims to perform 1.5 million vaccinations per week in the course of April. "Then we expect that infections will still increase, but not with very high peak."
But that does not mean that the lockdown measures can be relaxed yet, Kuipers said. If the reproduction number of the virus increases now, April could see a situation in which regular care will have to be scaled down again," he said. "More flexibility can therefore lead to rapid deterioration."
The reproduction number, or R-number, is the number of people each coronavirus patient infects. The R-number is currently around 1. For a virus to decline, that number needs to be below 1.
Jaap van Dissel of the RIVM also warned against relaxing more measures, as the pressure on healthcare is still high. According to him, about 100 thousand people in the Netherlands are currently contagious. "With an R-number of around one, 100 thousand will be added to that," Van Dissel said.
Van Dissel expects that the number of coronavirus infections will continue to increase as the more contagious B117 strain, first identified in the United Kingdom, continues to spread in the Netherlands. "Now about 65 percent of the number of infections is the British variant," he said. He expects this will increase to around 80 percent during the course of this month.
"It will therefore be stressful in the coming period whether the admissions will increase or whether it will be limited because we continue to adhere to the measures," Van Dissel said.