Cabinet to scrap most efficient anti-Covid measure with social distancing: OMT member
In a press conference on Tuesday evening, the Dutch cabinet is expected to announce that social distancing will no longer be mandatory from September 25, scrapping the stay 1.5 meters apart rule about 1.5 years since it was implemented. And with that the cabinet is scrapping one of the most efficient measures in the anti-coronavirus package, medical microbiologist and member of the Outbreak Management Team, Marc Bonten, said to RTL Nieuws.
"I don't think that we can quantify that, but it was one of the most important measures. There were a lot of measures and also a lot of behavioral changes that people had to implement in addition," Bonten said. It was the combination of measures that helped limit the spread of the coronavirus, but he believes that social distancing played a big role in that.
When asked whether this is a responsible time to drop social distancing, with over 600 Covid-19 patients currently hospitalized in the Netherlands, Bonten said: "You don't know that with 100 percent certainty." This will almost certainly lead to an increase in infections. "The RIVM forecasts take this into account. The question is whether it will also lead to an increase in hospital admissions. Models that we have seen in the OMT do not exclude a significant increase at the current vaccination rate."
In the worst case scenario, between 400 and 600 people will need ICU care at the same time, Bonten said. "That's something the hospitals don't want. We've experienced such a big wave twice. It is important not to let that happen again."
Bonten added that over 90 percent of currently hospitalized Covid-19 patients are not vaccinated against the coronavirus. "Vaccinations remains the most important measure," he said. 11.3 million Netherlands residents, almost 80 percent of the population, are now fully vaccinated. With the original variant of SARS-CoV-2, that would have been enough for herd immunity. But with the more contagious Delta variant, "we should preferably have a vaccination rate above 90 percent", Bonten said.
"I think if we had same vaccination level for everyone above age 12 as we have with the measles vaccination of children, about 95 percent, we would no longer have to worry about hospitals filling up to a level we don't want," Bonten said.
The cabinet press conference is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday. Sources close to the cabinet said that social distancing will be scrapped, coronavirus access passes will be mandatory in more settings, full football stadiums will be allowed, and events without fixed seats will be allowed at 75 percent capacity.