Cabinet ignored expert advice in reopening nightclubs: report
The Dutch government ignored advice from experts in the Outbreak Management Team and Fieldlab when it authorized the reopening of nightclubs on June 26, NRC reported based on parliamentary documents and conversations with people involved.
The number of coronavirus cases in the Netherlands spiked in the two weeks after clubs reopened and events were made possible. This resulted in the cabinet tightening some restrictions again, and apologizing for relaxing measures too soon.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Fieldlab experimented with ways in which events could take place and nightclubs could reopen safely. On May 29, a Fieldlab event took place in club Shelter in Amsterdam. The results of that experiment were not yet published when the cabinet decided that nightclubs and other entertainment venues could reopen. The cabinet also never requested the findings of this event, a person involved said to NRC.
The Fieldlab experiment allowed 600 people into club Shelter, well below normal capacity. Afterwards, at least two employees and two attendees tested positive for the coronavirus. Fieldlab concluded that the risk of contamination was higher at nightclubs than at other events.
If the cabinet had requested advice, Fieldlab would have recommended that the ventilation standard for clubs be increased to 24 cubic meters per person, according to NRC. But the cabinet did not impose additional requirements on ventilation. In fact, the new Alcohol Act that took effect on July 1 made ventilation rules for the catering industry more flexible.
The cabinet also did not limit the number of visitors to nightclubs, and ignored the advice of the OMT and Fieldlab that all employees and visitors to an event must test negative for Covid-19 within 24 hours before the end of that event. The cabinet said that this was legally complicated, and made test results valid for 40 hours.
That last decision may well have contributed to the major spike in coronavirus infections, Andreas Voss, Fieldlab lead researcher, OMT member, and professor of infection prevention at Radboud University, said to NRC. "We know of the Delta variant that if you are infected you can go from 'not yet detectable' to 'highly infectious' within 24 hours," she said.