Don't relax Covid measures in middle of holiday, experts say
On Friday, the Dutch cabinet will hold a press conference to announce what the measures around the coronavirus will look like for the coming period. "Everything is on the table", the cabinet said. But various experts worry that relaxing measures now, in the middle of summer vacation, may be a mistake, they said to NOS.
The number of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands is decreasing, but is still relatively high with the seven day average for daily infections standing at around 2,500. On Wednesday, there were 656 coronavirus patients in hospital, including 210 receiving intensive care. The coronavirus risk level is still at "cautious" or higher in all 25 of the country's security regions. Seven regions are at the highest risk level.
Epidemiologists and some other scientists told NOS that the summer vacation is playing a role in the currently declining figures. "Schools and universities are closed," said Gowri Gopalakrishna, epidemiologist and professor of public health at VUmc. "There are fewer people working due to holidays. So there is less mobility and that means less virus transmission. These are all factors that play a role in the low figures of now. But soon the holidays will be over and what will it look like then?"
Christina Vandenbroucke-Grauls, emeritus professor of microbiology at VUmc, agrees. "You should not make decisions in the middle of the holidays about relaxing. That seems logical to me. The holidays influence the figures. Maybe favorably for now, but when they're over it may be the reverse. You don't know."
Field epidemiologist Amrish Baidjoe thinks that the Covid-19 vaccination rate must first be gotten to a desired level before you can think of relaxing more measures. Currently an estimated 71 percent of adults in the Netherlands are fully vaccinated, and 85 percent have had their first shot. Among teens aged 12 to 17, only 43 have had their first shot.
"The vaccination rate, especially the much lower one in certain neighborhoods, is the most important indicator. It must be leading," Baidjoe said to the broadcaster. "You have to try to convince everyone to get vaccinations, even in the most difficult neighborhoods. The vaccination rate must first be raised there before you think of relaxation."
Gopalakrishna and Baidjoe are members of the Red Team, a self-formed team of experts in various fields that provides solicited and unsolicited advice to the cabinet on its coronavirus policy.
But Marc Bonten, professions of the epidemiology of infectious diseases at UMC Utrecht and member of the Outbreak Management Team, also told NOS that now is too soon to relax more measures. If it were up to him, he would wait another month before evaluating the situation and deciding on whether or not to relax measures, he said.