Relaxation of lockdown measure won't cause new Covid peak, ICU expert says
The upcoming relaxation of a handful of coronavirus measures will not cause a peak in the number of intensive care admissions because the vaccination progress has improved, Dutch Association for Intensive Care chair Diederik Gommers told the newswire ANP. He added that the pressure on intensive care units is more likely the result of decreased compliance with current coronavirus measures.
Starting Monday, higher education students will be able to return to classrooms for one day per week. Starting on Wednesday, the mandatory curfew will be eliminated, cafe terraces will be allowed to reopen from noon to 6 p.m., and shoppers will no longer have to make appointments to visit retailers.
Even though the relaxation of those measures will not lead to a surge of new infections, Gommers speculated that once the curfew is abolished people may start to think the crisis has ended which will result in their disregard for basic coronavirus rules. These include social distancing, limits to gatherings, wearing face masks, the frequent washing of hands, and staying home and getting tested for the viral infection when symptomatic.
"That is dangerous. We have already partly stopped the urgent surgeries that are necessary within six weeks. You cannot do that for very long. That is why I keep saying: realize that in hospitals it is still very difficult," he explained.
On Saturday, a group of doctors from various hospitals in Noord-Brabant wrote an urgent letter regarding the situation in intensive care units, warning that "the Dutch population does not seem to realize how close we are currently to the moment when our ICU capacity is reached."
The Ministry of Health also stated that they were fully aware of the situation in Noord-Brabant and will keep to monitor it closely, Nu.nl reported,
"The situation in hospitals has our full attention. We are in constant conversation with the hospital employees and the National Acute Care Network (LNAZ) and we are hearing their signals loud and clear" the ministry spokesperson said.
According to Gommers, the fact that intensive care units throughout the country are seeing an increased influx of patients in recent days is a result of people not adhering to the measures three weeks ago. "The weather was good at the beginning of April, everyone was close together in the parks. You can now see that in the hospital figures," he said.
Gommers once again stressed that the vaccination remains the key factor that could eventually put an end to the crisis. "The vaccination is going at a great pace now. That is the key. If something goes wrong with the vaccination in the coming weeks, we will have a big problem."
The Netherlands has used roughly 5.1 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to date. Roughly one million adults have been fully vaccinated (7.0 percent of the adult population) and three million others have received a first vaccine shot only (27.6 percent), according to the ECDC.