No further reopening before Covid hospitalizations fall by 20 pct, OMT argues
Some figures in this article were corrected due to data missing at the time of publication.
The Outbreak Management Team (OMT) has urged the Cabinet to continue to wait with easing lockdown measures until Covid-19 hospital admissions have fallen by an average of 20 percent. The latest advisory memo was submitted by Health Minister Hugo de Jonge to the Tweede Kamer. In it, the OMT also argued against allowing any test events at outdoor venues to a maximum capacity of 50-75 percent, a counterpoint to advice from Fieldlab which has helped organize pilot events.
The Cabinet announced on Saturday that no further coronavirus lockdown restrictions will be loosened on May 11. The second reopening step, which will now take place on May 18 at the earliest, will grant more opportunities to participate in sports and see the reopening of amusement parks, zoos and other venues.
"The OMT advises that the further relaxation of the measures in accordance with Step 2, including the longer opening of the terraces, only take effect when a decrease of at least 20% has been realized over the current 7-day average of the number of new hospital and ICU," the OMT wrote on May 3. On that date, the seven-day average for intensive care admissions for Covid-19 stood at 48, with 260 more admitted into regular care wards, data from the LCPS showed.
The OMT also stated that it appears the peak in hospital admissions has been reached and the chance of a further increase is now smaller. "Confirmation of this decline is necessary in order to gain more certainty about this modeling and underlying assumptions, on which more long-term forecasts can be made," the advisors wrote. A clear confirmation of a trend in falling hospital admissions is necessary before any further steps may be taken.
They said they were also concerned about the heavy crowding which formed on King's Day and on shopping streets around the Netherlands. This crowding was not accounted for in the OMT's projections, and could have an impact on coronavirus infections, and later Covid-19 hospitalizations.
The experts argued that the pressure on the healthcare system remained strong and that too many people were still carrying the virus. According to the experts, the R-value, indicating the number of people that one infected person will pass on a virus to, is still above 1 at 1.03.
"According to the models, the rapid achievement of a high vaccination coverage makes a very important contribution to the rate of decline of the epidemic and thus the speed at which it can be eased."
The OMT also advised the Cabinet to wait with new larger, Fieldlab events for the time being. These events should only be considered once the Covid-19 hospitalizations have fallen by a fifth, according to the memo. Even then, stricter rules should be enforced at events for them to be considered safe by the OMT.
These rules include mandatory masks and obligatory testing 24 hours and five days after the event. Groups at events should be kept as small as possible so that source and contact research can be carried out quickly, OMT concluded.
The OMT also spoke against the earlier statement of acute care leader Ernst Kuipers, who said that curfew had no significant effect on hospital admissions. In a response, the OMT, of which Kuipers is a member, stressed that calculating the effects of the measure required a thorough scientifically-based analysis.