Lockdown necessary, medical experts say
The Cabinet is not expected to announce a lockdown on Friday. But with the high number of coronavirus infections, a lockdown is necessary, two health experts said to the newspaper Trouw. They're critical of the Cabinet again reacting too late.
According to virologist Bert Niesters of the University Medical Center Groningen and health economist Jochen Mierau of the University of Groningen, the Cabinet failed to learn a vital lesson from the previous Covid-19 waves. "The longer you wait, the harder you have to intervene," Niesters said.
Mierau was dismayed to see the Cabinet once again trying to focus on healthcare capacity, he said. "That goes against all guidelines. Suppose the Cabinet was a general practitioner and a patient came in with complaints that the doctor must treat in a certain way according to a protocol. If the GP says we will try something else, he will end up before a disciplinary board. Now we have a Cabinet that systematically ignores the advice of the World Health Organization and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. Then you run behind the facts, and you get a situation in which only heavy measures can get the virus under control."
The measures the Cabinet is now discussing - a booster shot, the coronavirus access pass, and a 2G policy in which society is only open to vaccinated people and people who recovered from Covid-19 (gevaccineerd en genezen, in Dutch) - will not turn the tide, Mierau said. These measures can stabilize the virus at a certain level, but the Netherlands must first get its infections and hospital admissions down.
And the only way to do that is through lockdown, he said. "We know the palette," Mierau said to the newspaper. "We have new instruments to stabilize, such as the coronavirus access pass and the boosters, but the instruments to contain the virus remains the same."
The Cabinet lacks central direction and decisiveness, Niesters said. "You can see that, for example, in the discussion around Carnival. Each security region or city has its own policy. Noord- and Midden-Limburg say: it is not allowed. Zuid-Limburg followed a day later under pressure from hospitals. But Carnival continues in Noord-Brabant."
The Cabinet said it would look at citizens' behavior for measures expected to be announced on Friday. "That shows that we are not adhering to the measures," Nietsers said. "You don't need research for that. Look at the infection figures that are announced every day at 3:30 p.m. That is the outcome of our behavior." And that is no surprise because all the advice is non-binding, he added.