Outbreak advisors strongly urged against relaxing lockdown restrictions
Members of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) strongly advised the Cabinet to wait before relaxing coronavirus measures starting April 28 until it became certain the most recent peak of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infections ended. The government’s top pandemic advisors provided their most recent recommendations over the weekend, which were submitted on Tuesday by the health ministry to the Tweede Kamer, the lower House of Parliament.
In it, the OMT argued that the third wave of infections might have reached a peak, but on the basis of current coronavirus infection figures that remains extremely unclear, newswire ANP reported after reviewing the document. Moreover, a decline in the number of infections is yet to be seen.
Data from the RIVM showed that the average number of new infections has gone up each of the past six days, and has advanced upward since midway through February. There was a brief dip last week due to an IT outage, and also earlier in April when people did not schedule coronavirus tests over the Easter holiday weekend.
"All indicators still point to a situation appropriate to the risk level 'very serious'", the OMT advice stated.
Compared to a week ago, the OMT gave a slightly less pessimistic prediction about the effects of relaxing the current coronavirus measures. The date in which reducing or eliminating lockdown measures goes into effect “no longer seems to affect the value and time of the peak,” but it likely will influence “the rate at which the current wave will begin to descend”.
The OMT also pointed out that all the short-term forecasts are uncertain, as that remains largely dependent on the compliance with the remaining measures, the speed of the vaccination process, but also whether the current vaccines will be effective against potential new strains of the virus.
Despite concerns, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte decided to go through with the first step of a gradual six-step plan to release the country out of lockdown on April 28. The first step includes the elimination of the curfew, the limited reopening of cafe terraces, more access to non-essential stores, and from April 26 more in-person classroom work for higher education students.