Amsterdam mayor: New approach to pandemic needed; “Can’t stay in crisis mode for years”
The Netherlands must prepare for a life where people cope with the coronavirus, said Femke Halsema, the mayor of Amsterdam. She told AT5 that it is time to come to grips with the possibility that the coronavirus is here to stay. We “cannot stay in crisis mode for years,” she said.
"Now that we have to accept that it may never go away completely, we have to think about how we will fight a pandemic and ensure that our society is organized in a pleasant and free way," she told the local broadcaster. This includes the next Cabinet developing plans that count on the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus being endemic to society, and working with researchers and hospitals to prepare for that outcome.
"We must indeed start thinking about it. We also have to create proposals for that to make certain that people have hope for the coming years, and have confidence in our future in Amsterdam, regardless of, and despite, coronavirus.”
This could include changes to social planning, such as a shorter summer school vacation period and a longer winter break. She suggested looking at the seasonality of the virus to reduce risk in other areas of society when the virus is at its most contagious, but it is up to the Cabinet, not municipalities, to make such decisions.
Halsema also wants to make sure that schools remain open always, and that people can maintain a stable income level, “even if something has to close from time to time in the future.”
The mayor also said she was very surprised by the initial rise of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. As of Wednesday, about 25 percent of new infections in the capital were linked to the variant. The number of Omicron infections have been doubling every two to three days.
"Of course we hope that, even if it is more contagious, that it may not make you so sick. But it is very important to get this under control as soon as possible."