Cabinet may close clubs, cancel events as Covid numbers soar
The caretaker Dutch cabinet is considering taking new measures against the spread of the coronavirus as infection numbers soared this past two weeks. Measures on the table include closing nightclubs, canceling multiple-day events, and limiting tourism, sources told broadcaster NOS.
The final decision will be made on Friday morning, after the responsible Ministers discussed urgent advice requested from the Outbreak Management Team. The expectation is that new measures will be announced in a press conference this evening.
On Thursday, public health institute RIVM announced 5,475 new coronavirus infections - an increase of over 1,800 compared to the day before. Last week, an average of 2,308 people tested positive for the coronavirus per day, an increase of 227 percent compared to the previous seven days.
The measures being considered are targeted at the groups with the highest positive rate - young people up to 29 years of age, and travelers. 65 percent of all infections this past week were found in the 15 to 29 years old age group. And 11.1 percent were among people who traveled abroad.
Since Testing for Access launched two weekends ago, hundreds of thousands of young people were tested for the coronavirus so that they could attend events or go out partying. But the system proved flawed as multiple outbreaks were reported in the nightlife crowd.
In Enschede, for example, some 180 people tested positive for Covid-19 after going to a local nightclub. There were also outbreaks in student associations in The Hague and Groningen. And one young Amsterdam resident told how he spent a night partying in crowded clubs after getting negative test results, only to be told the next day that a mistake was made and he had the coronavirus after all.
Despite the increasing infections, Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health has been hesitant to say that measures will be taken. The cabinet is keeping an eye on the situation and will intervene if things get out of hand, he said earlier this week. And on Thursday he said that it wasn't yet certain whether measures were needed. "Where we have always intervened was to protect the vulnerable and not overload hospitals. The current infections are highly prevalent among young people and they are not immediately hospitalized."
De Jonge did warn, however, that the Netherlands could get a code red travel warning on the European Union's travel advice due to the rising infections. This could affect Netherlands residents' vacation plans, as they may have to quarantine in some countries, or might not be allowed to enter at all.