Hard lockdown necessary right now, says Dutch outbreak team
The Outbreak Management Team (OMT) has advised implementing a hard lockdown in the Netherlands forcing the closure of all sectors, with the exception of essential shops such as supermarkets, pharmacies and drugstores. Sources confirmed this following similar reports by RTL Nieuws and NRC. The strict lockdown would be put in place to slow down the spread of the advancing Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The lockdown would include barring the public from all non-essential shops and services, the hospitality industry, theaters, cinemas, museums, and schools, reported RTL Nieuws. RIVM director and OMT chair Jaap van Dissel will update the Cabinet ministers most connected to the developing crisis on Friday night.
The caretaker Cabinet will hold an emergency remote meeting on Saturday to determine if they will follow the OMT’s advise and bring the country into another complete lockdown. If any new measures are adopted during the meeting, a press event is expected to follow soon after to explain the decision. Members of the Tweede Kamer would then likely return from recess to hold a debate on the matter.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he was "not hopeful" about the developments surrounding the new variant, which appears to be much more contagious than the Delta variant. The Delta variant was already far more contagious than the earlier variants, and has been the dominant variant in the Netherlands for six months.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said on Friday after the Council of Ministers meeting that the Cabinet is "greatly concerned" about the new variant of the virus. "If necessary, we will take the appropriate measures,” De Jonge said.
Roughly a fourth of all new coronavirus infections in Amsterdam are believed to be caused by the Omicron variant, and the number of Omicron infections is doubling every two to three days. There is a growing concern that infections caused by the variant are at least similarly pathogenic compared to the Delta variant, meaning it could cause a similar spike in hospitalizations due to Covid-19.
NU91, the professional organization representing nurses, said that measures are needed to prevent a further increase in pressure on healthcare. "If there is enormous pressure on the hospitals, then measures must be taken. This is no different," a spokesperson said. "The OMT did not come up with the advice for no reason at all. You can't simply ignore it. Otherwise, you reap what you sow.”
Reporting by ANP and NL Times.