Outbreak team calling for more coronavirus restrictions: Report
The top experts advising the Dutch Cabinet on its coronavirus policy has called for urgent new restrictions to be introduced in the Netherlands amid fears that the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is spreading rapidly, NOS reported. A source close to the Outbreak Management Team told the broadcaster that additional measures must be implemented quickly, but no specific measures were disclosed to the broadcaster.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte is expected to hold a press conference early next week to announce any changes in policy. During a press conference earlier this week, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said that it was possible new restrictions could come soon if the current set of restrictions were not considered strong enough.
Members of the Cabinet were briefed by the OMT on Friday about the state of the pandemic in the Netherlands. After the meeting, De Jonge said he was not optimistic about the situation. "We are very concerned," he stated.
All measures are on the table, a government source told newspaper AD. This includes further limits to household guests, and a stricter approach to the hospitality, culture, and retail sectors. It could also include more drastic measures, like entire sector shutdowns or a hard lockdown.
The NOS source said it is a race against the clock to get booster Covid-19 jabs into arms ahead of the Omicron wave, which should increase people's protection against severe symptoms of Covid-19. The Netherlands was one of the last countries in the European Union to begin the booster process. Though the jabs were approved by the EMA in early October, the Netherlands did not plan to start its booster campaign until after the first week of December. That was moved to late November as experts said the Cabinet's delays were without justification.
Acting faster, including a more stern approach to coronavirus measures in November and early December, would have been far more appropriate, especially with holidays and winter sports vacations approaching, said Bert Niesters, a virologist from UMC Groningen. "We are back at square one. We waited a long time for the current lockdown that starts at 5 p.m. We were already above 20,000 infections per day. Yes that was much too late," he told BNR.
"You should have done it much sooner. Now you're also damaging the economy. That's sad and would not have been necessary."
Data from Amsterdam shows that Omicron variant infections have doubled in the city every two to three days, the OMT source told NOS. Menno de Jong, an OMT member, told BNR that it is already responsible for about 25 percent of infections in Amsterdam. It will likely become the dominant variant in the capital some time next week, NOS reported.
"We are seeing it explode everywhere," said Yorick Bleijenberg, a coronavirus data analyst, in an interview with BNR. "We are early in that increase. It will take a while before people who become infected become seriously ill." He said it could be at least as pathogenic as the current dominant Delta variant.
"If it is as sickening as the Delta variant, many more people will end up in hospital," Niesters said.
Bleijenberg said that closing schools early is helpful, but will not likely do the trick. The only thing that could help, he said, is increasing the rate booster jabs are given to about 1 million per week, where current capacity is about 700,000, Niesters said