Omicron Covid cases top 100, but overall infections fall; Positivity rate, deaths rising
More than a hundred people in the Netherlands have tested positive for the Omicron variant of the coronavirus to date. The variant will likely lead to more infections in the coming weeks, and as a result, the number of hospital admissions could rise again. For now, the latest weekly report about the coronavirus pandemic in the Netherlands showed that coronavirus infections neared a one-month low after a 21 percent drop, despite the rising rate of people testing positive. While Covid-19 hospital admissions fell, the number of deaths caused by the disease has also increased.
The data was released hours before a Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge were expected to announce a one-month extension to the evening lockdown, and the early closure of primary schools before the winter break.
Omicron variant could lead to more infections, hospitalizations later
The institute said the Omicron variant is a cause for concern. It has been diagnosed a total of 123 times in the Netherlands, including 18 people who arrived on one of two flights from South Africa on November 26. The variant was initially discovered in South Africa, but samples examined later showed the virus was in the Netherlands since at least November 19.
Eighty people who tested positive for Omicron were recently in a country in Southern Africa. Three others were in contact with someone who was infected with the variant. Fifteen people had no "direct or indirect link" with Southern Africa.
That means that they must have acquired the infection it in a different way, including within the Netherlands. The investigation into the source of the Omicron infection in seven others is still ongoing.
The RIVM believes the Omicron variant will become the dominant variant in the Netherlands. Currently, that is still the Delta variant, which accounts for slightly fewer than 100 percent of all monitored positive tests.
Weekly report shows one-month low in new infections
Some 116,477 positive coronavirus tests were registered in the past week, the lowest number in about a month. The number of confirmed infections is about 21 percent lower than last week and a quarter lower than the week before. It represents the fastest decrease since August, reports the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).
The number of positive tests went down in every age group, but especially among young people. Those remains the most likely groups to contract the virus. In the past week, 17,310 teens tested positive, about 23 percent fewer than a week earlier. Among those in their twenties and thirties, the number of cases fell by about 20 percent.
The basic reproduction number of the viral infection dropped to 0.95. That is the lowest level since mid-September, before most coronavirus restrictions were released, triggering the start of the current wave. It indicates that the 100 people infected with the virus at the start of December passed it on to 95 others, who then spread the infection to 90 more people. A value below 1.00 indicates the spread of the viral infection is slowing.
However, fewer people went to get tested for the coronavirus infection last week. The GGDs carried out just over 450,000 tests during the calendar week, compared to more than 620,000 the week before and almost 670,000 a week earlier.
Those tests frequently revealed an infection in those who showed up at the GGD sites. About 23.4 percent of all tests came back positive. That percentage set a new record for the weekly reporting from the RIVM. It peaked even higher, at 24 percent, when adjusting the seven-day period back by a few days. At the end of November, 22.2 percent of all people tested at the GGD were actually infected with the virus.
The RIVM said it thinks that the high percentage is due to the more frequent use of self-tests at home. If such a test is negative, and people do not have serious symptoms of the coronavirus disease, it becomes less urgent to make an appointment for a test at the GGD. The people who do visit the test centers are often people who produced a positive self-test at home. They then schedule an appointment at the GGD for a confirmation test. When they are also positive at the GGD, they not only have certainty about the results of the self-test kits, which can be less accurate, but they can also receive a recovery certificate about two weeks later. This allows them to create a QR code in the CoronaCheck app.
Other groups of people who still visit the test sites are those who clearly have Covid-like complaints and people who have been in close contact with someone who already tested positive.
Deaths rising, but hospitalizations falling
The number of deaths is still rising. In the past week, the RIVM was informed that 445 Covid-19 sufferers died as a result of the infection. That is the highest number since February. It is mainly people over 65, but there are also people in their thirties and forties. It is not legally required to report a death caused by Covid-19 to the RIVM, so the actual number may be higher.
The number of hospital admissions linked to Covid-19 did decrease. In the past week, 1,878 people exhibited symptoms which were so bad they ended up being treated in either a regular care or acute care department. That is almost 10 percent lower than a week earlier, when there were 2,085 admissions, according to the revised data. Of the 1,878 people admitted, 332 were placed in an intensive care unit, compared to 347 a week earlier.
While the RIVM's data on hospitalizations comes from intensive care monitor NICE, patient coordination service LCPS showed a slightly less positive picture. A total of 2,115 people with Covid-19 were admitted this past week, according to that organization. That was down six percent compared to the previous week. It includes 281 people sent directly to an intensive care unit, down from 285.
Reporting by ANP.