Outbreak Team to discuss additional coronavirus measures
The Outbreak Management Team, a collection of experts advising the government on its coronavirus policy, will meet on Friday to discuss the current state of the pandemic in the Netherlands. The advisors will discuss the growing number of infections caused by the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. It will be the OMT’s 134th meeting since the start of the pandemic.
The meeting was discussed during a press conference earlier this week with Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge. “Next week, the OMT will weigh the latest research results, and will advise us whether additional precautionary measures should be taken to slow down the spread of the Omicron variant,” De Jonge said.
During that event, they extended all existing coronavirus restrictions, like the evening lockdown, and announced that primary schools will close by the end of Friday, one week before the winter holiday period was set to start. The purpose of the measure is to reduce contact moments between children, and to allow for an eight day window where Covid-19 symptoms can be diagnosed before they potentially come into contact with older family members during Christmas.
They granted a grace period where schools may close by Monday at the latest, leading some virologists to question the measure’s effectiveness. Additionally, all after school care will be closed next week, but daycare centers for children not yet at school age will be allowed to remain open. After school care can open back up after Christmas weekend to provide child care during the day. All measures will be in place until January 14, though Rutte said this could be quickly re-evaluated, implying the situation could be tightened with stricter measures, potentially for a longer duration.
De Jonge also stated that the government would rapidly widen the scale of its Covid-19 booster vaccine plan in a last-minute attempt to stave off infections caused by the advancing variant, which the RIVM believes will become dominant within a month. “Because vaccines still protect quite well against the Delta variant, but against the Omicron variant, the booster shot is really needed to bring the protection level back up to standard.”
The Delta variant was already said to be a highly-contagious version of the coronavirus, and the Omicron variant is believed to spread even faster. De Jonge was concerned about the the number of known infections caused by the variant doubling on a daily basis in the United Kingdom. It could trigger a continuation or worsening of the current coronavirus wave in the Netherlands, which was by far the worst in terms of positive tests for the virus. The country did not start testing on a wide-scale until June 2020. It is not yet known how the Omicron variant could potentially impact Covid-19 hospitalizations.
The RIVM said on Tuesday that the Omicron variant has been diagnosed 123 times in the Netherlands since the variant was first identified by researchers in South Africa. The Dutch total includes fifteen people who had no “direct or indirect link” with Southern Africa. In the Netherlands, it was first found to be the cause of infection of 18 people who arrived on one of two flights from South Africa on November 26. When two samples taken a week earlier were examined, the too were found to include the Omicron variant
Eighty other infections in the Netherlands were among people who recently traveled in a Southern Africa country, and three others were known to have been in direct contact with someone infected with the Omicron variant. Seven other source and contact investigations were ongoing.