Coronavirus restrictions to loosen up as planned, but ICUs very concerned
The relaxation of several coronavirus lockdown restrictions later this week will continue as planned, despite the number of Covid-19 patients holding above 800. Additionally, the average number of daily coronavirus infections has gone up since the changes were announced during a press conference last Tuesday.
The loosening of the lockdown, including the reopening of terraces, the elimination of shopping-by-appointment at retailers, and the elimination of the curfew will go forth as planned on Wednesday. Sources close to the caretaker Cabinet told broadcaster NOS that the ministers see no reason to reverse or adjust their plan.
For ten straight days, the Dutch intensive care system has been treating over 800 Covid-19 patients, a situation which has become so dire that many hospitals issued warnings that they will likely have to either choose between patients for remaining ICU placements, or transfer patients to other hospitals in he country. While the average number of daily coronavirus infections has fallen since Friday to 8,114, the average was about five percent higher than when Prime Minister Mark Rutte said certain lockdown restrictions would disappear because a plateau of infections had been reached.
Ernst Kuipers, the chair of the national acute care provider’s network LNAZ, was hesitant about being too optimistic that infection rates will drop as quickly as predicted. During a press conference, he said that the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital is “at or near a peak”. Currently, there are 813 patients in the IC in the Netherlands. That number could still increase, but it could also go down faster than expected.
Kuipers ensured that hospitals are able to handle the situation. He was increasingly concerned about the ability to provide care to patients who are not affected by Covid-19. “We are taking out a mortgage on non-Covid-care,” the chairman warned. Several operations for people who would need to spend time in the ICU after the procedure have been cancelled.
Hospitals in the south have already voiced their concern that the situation in their ICUs is unsustainable.
Covid-19 patients end up in ICU for an average of 17 days once admitted to hospital. In comparison, someone recovering from open heart surgery needs to stay in the IC between 24 to 48 hours on average. A coronavirus patient thus “takes up the same amount of space as ten patients or more”, Kuiper calculated.
Last week, the number of new hospital admissions initially showed signs of declining but rose again sharply in the last few days.
According to NOS, figures differ from day to day but the overall picture has remained the same. For that reason, Cabinet ministers saw no need to adjust the policy.