Hospitalizations, not infections, to take lead in determining Covid policy
From September 25, the cabinet is changing its approach to determining the coronavirus policy. Instead of looking at the number of infections to determine which measures are needed to keep the spread of the virus under control, the cabinet will look at the number of Covid-19 related hospital- and ICU admissions, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said in a letter to parliament, NOS reports.
As of this week, 81.7 percent of adults in the Netherlands are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus - a significant increase compared to last week's 77.1 percent. This is because public health institute RIVM decided to count persons who recovered from a coronavirus infection and had one dose of the vaccine as fully vaccinated, because they have enough immunity to protect them against serious illness from the virus. When it comes to the entire population, including children, 68 percent are fully vaccinated.
With the current vaccination rate, fewer and fewer measures are needed to control the spread of the coronavirus. "At the same time, the healthcare chain is still under pressure," De Jonge said. It therefore seems obvious to look at the healthcare system's available capacity when determining whether more measures are needed.
The cabinet's new approach will focus on vaccinating as many people as possible, and spreading the infection of those not immune to the virus out so that it puts as little pressure on healthcare as possible. For the autumn, the cabinet foresees three possible scenarios - an 'endemic situation' in which the virus is manageable and there is little pressure on healthcare, a 'revival situation', and 'breakthrough immunity' in which the built-up immunity no longer offers enough protection. The government expects the 'revival situation' to be most likely this autumn, and therefore gave it three risk levels - vigilant, worrisome and serous.
What risk level the country is in will be determined based on the seven-day average of ICU and hospital admissions, in combination with other factors like the vaccination rate and the available ICU space. Measures will be linked to the risk levels.
At the vigilant level, there will be source measures like staying home and getting tested if you have symptoms, basic measures like washing your hands regularly, and travel measures such as quarantine obligations. At the 'worrying level', measures can be supplemented with the use of access passes. And at the serious level, there may be maximum group sizes, social distancing, and work from home advice.