OMT urges against further lockdown easing; "Reversing will be impossible"
The Outbreak Management Team (OMT) called upon the caretaker Cabinet to refrain from relaxing the lockdown restrictions any further, in its latest advisory statement. Relaxing coronavirus measures may is far easier to accomplish than tightening restrictions, the OMT said. Enforcing restrictions again if the infection numbers or Covid-19 hospitalization figures deteriorate will be "next to impossible", the OMT stated in the report that Health Minister Hugo de Jonge then submitted to Parliament.
The caretaker Cabinet decided on Tuesday to move forward with the second step of its lockdown relaxation plan on May 19, with a caveat: They will stop this from happening if the average number of daily Covid-19 hospital admissions has not fallen by about 20 percent below the third wave peak.
"The expectation is that sometime this week we will see the decrease of 20 percent in the hospital figures. Hence the positive decision, with an emergency brake," Prime Minister Mark Rutte said during a press conference on Tuesday.
Experts on the OMT pointed out they would much rather first see the prediction confirmed by hard figures, which is not yet the case. If the most optimistic scenarios in those models do not materialize, the pressure on hospitals could remain high for weeks, they warned.
Hospitalization figures from the LCPS showed a 16 percent average daily drop compared to the peak of 313 during the third wave. This total was reached in late April, and nearly met twice in the first week of May. Data from intensive care non profit NICE also showed a 22 percent decrease in week-to-week Covid-19 hospitalizations through Tuesday morning.
The experts further stated that the number of contagious people in the Netherlands remained high, especially among the youth and also compared to other European countries. "A large number of infections will lead to more cases of long-term complaints at a later stage from people who had Covid-19," they explained.
Other areas of concern include the months-long increase in the rate of people testing positive for the SARS-CoV-2 infection among those who schedule their own test, and the decrease in people getting tested over the past two months. The OMT also pointed out, as did the RIVM on Tuesday, that the drop in infections realized last week could largely be due to the May vacation period, including Liberation Day.
If the Cabinet presses forward, the second reopening step will include opening gyms, sports halls, and swimming pools, and will allow for more group exercise activity outdoors. Sex workers and other contact professions still closed will also be allowed to reopen. Cafe terraces will be allowed to open for breakfast up through 8 p.m.
The final decision from the Cabinet is expected on Monday