Cabinet not ready to intervene in increasing coronavirus infections, sources say
There is currently no sense of panic among members of the Dutch Cabinet because of the rapidly increasing coronavirus figures, sources close to the government said. The Cabinet will remain vigilant, but currently sees no reason to decide earlier than planned about whether it should tighten up coronavirus restrictions in the Netherlands, according to political insiders.
The Cabinet will provide an update on the coronavirus measures on November 5. The Outbreak Management Team (OMT) will produce new policy advice the days leading up to that update. In the three weeks following the relaxation of rules at the end of September, the number of infections and the pressure on the healthcare system has continued to rise.
The Cabinet expected this increase and took it into account when making its decisions, sources said. The Cabinet is focusing more on the number of hospital admissions and intensive care unit admissions than on the infection figures.
The average number of total hospital admissions has gone up 47 percent in a week, and has more than doubled since the start of the month. An average number of 93 people were admitted with Covid-19 each of the past seven days, including 17 sent directly to intensive care, compared to 41 admissions with 7 sent to an ICU from Sept. 25 - Oct. 1. There are currently almost 700 patients in hospital care, with 174 in an ICU, up from 437 total patients with 132 in intensive care on October 1. Coronavirus infections have averaged over 4,200 this past week, compared to over 1,650 at the start of October.
Several specialists believe that the Cabinet should now intervene. Epidemiologist Frits Rosendaal would like to see face mask rules return. Researcher Marino van Zelst, among others, want the Cabinet to place more emphasis on the basic coronavirus rules, which include practicing good hygiene, keeping a safe 1.5 meter social distance, properly ventilating indoor spaces, and encouraging people to get tested when Covid-19 symptoms arise.
Van Zelst believes that it is best for the Cabinet to come up with "light interventions" as early as possible, because more severe measures may be necessary. The experts also expect that this year's flu wave will be heavier and will put more pressure on the healthcare system.
OMT chair Jaap van Dissel said in an interview with the AD that he does not expect a new lockdown this winter. He said that the situation this year is different because of the high vaccination rate compared to the same period last year. It is therefore more difficult to estimate how the pandemic will progress in the Netherlands. "We now see many of the infections among young people, for example, so that is relatively favorable for the number of hospital admissions," Van Dissel said.
"But it also depends on the rate of spread among unvaccinated groups and in regions where fewer people have been vaccinated."
Reporting by ANP and NL Times.