Cabinet does not rule out new lockdown in Fall
Update: This version corrects for a missing quotation from the RIVM about the delta variant, and provides better context about the variant from new research published just before the weekend.
It is a realistic scenario that the coronavirus will flare up again in Fall, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge wrote in a letter to the Tweede Kamer. The Cabinet can, therefore, not exclude the possibility of a new lockdown.
"What exactly will happen in Fall, which restrictions will be needed to ward off a fourth wave, we cannot say yet for certain", De Jonge stated during a press conference on Friday. "Mutations remain a risk, especially if they are more resistant to vaccines."
The development of the coronavirus crisis depends on multiple factors, according to De Jonge, such as if a new coronavirus mutation gains ground in the Netherlands. Coronavirus mutations may be immune to current Covid-19 vaccines.
According to an estimate by the RIVM, the delta coronavirus variant is responsible for 10 percent of all positive coronavirus tests. Currently, around 90 percent of infections can be traced back to the alpha variant. The RIVM said that the variant "is slightly more contagious" than the alpha variant, which is the most common in the Netherlands.
Researchers at Public Health England disagree. "Our study found a 64% increase in the odds of household transmission associated with infection with SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant compared to Alpha," after adjusting for several variables, a research team published in a report on Friday. "The findings support existing evidence that the Delta variant has a substantially increased transmissibility advantage over the Alpha variant, which has contributed to the rapid increase in the number of Delta variant cases in the UK over the study period and may explain the rapid surge in cases seen in other countries where this variant has been observed."
Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, said it is too soon to completely drop the 1.5-meter distance rule. "We know that if we release this measure too soon, the chance of the virus spreading increases. Many people still need to be vaccinated and there is uncertainty about the delta variant."
De Jonge stated that any spike in cases should be contained as quickly as possible. Testing capacity will, therefore, be maintained until February 2022. Contact tracing by the GGD will also remain largely in place. "If local outbreaks occur then you have to jump on them which should, in any case, include restrictions for that specific region", Rutte said. This way the Cabinet hopes to prevent a large outbreak from occurring.