Omicron variant now dominant in the Netherlands; Weekly infections, hospitalizations down
Update: The RIVM acknowledged a technical malfunction affecting the number of positive coronavirus tests reported between Monday and Tuesday morning. Though the seven-day average was near 12,100, the number of infections reported Tuesday was approximately 9,200.
The Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has become the dominant variant of the virus in the Netherlands. The highly-contagious variant was first found among passengers arriving on two flights from South Africa on November 26, with one separate sample taken a week earlier found to be positive for the variant. Since then, it displaced the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which had been dominant in the country since the summer.
"The increased speed in which this variant spreads will lead to additional infections in the near future, which will also increase the number of hospital admissions," the RIVM said in a statement. "The new measures that came into effect on December 19 should help provide the best possible limit to the expected increased pressure on the healthcare system caused by the Omicron variant."
It was not clear exactly how many infections were caused by the Omicron variant, but the RIVM said it "caused more than half of the infections" this week. Over 20,700 infections were reported just on Monday and Tuesday. Jaap van Dissel, the director of the RIVM, previously predicted that the Omicron variant would be dominant in the Netherlands by the end of the year. Sequencing studies have shown that Omicron has already been dominant in Amsterdam for a week.
Weekly infections down 11 percent
The RIVM said that 84,398 people tested positive for the coronavirus during the seven-day period ending Tuesday at 10 a.m. That was 11 percent lower compared to a week ago, bringing per capita infections down to 482 per 100,000 residents. A weeks-long slowdown in the the number of new infections has begun to level off, data from the agency showed. Last week, the RIVM reported in its weekly update a 19 percent drop in infections, and a 21 percent decrease the week before that.
Per capita infections were highest in the Amsterdam-Amstelland area (627), followed by Gooi- en Vechtstreek (585). Noord Limburg was in the best shape with 356 infections per 100,000 residents. The number of per capita infections in an entire province over a two-week period has to remain below 500 in order to be taken off the list of Europe's riskiest areas for coronavirus infections.
The most recent calculation of the basic reproduction (R) value of the virus was 0.90 on December 13. That was slightly higher than the 0.88 reported a week earlier. It means that 100 people contagious with the virus infected 90 others, who then passed the virus on to 81 additional people. When the value is over 1.00 it demonstrates that the number of infections is likely on rising exponentially among members of a population.
There was also a further 9 percent decrease in the number of tests conducted by the GGD during the previous calendar week, with 346,667 tests completed. About 23.4 percent of those tests came back positive. Roughly 47,000 people went to the GGD to get confirmation of a positive result obtained from a self-test. The GGD said 84.5 percent of that group tested positive.
Covid hospitalizations down by a fourth
Meanwhile, hospital data from the intensive care monitor NICE showed that 1,063 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 during the past seven days, the lowest figure reported since the beginning of November. That was about 26 percent lower compared to last week's corrected figure of 1,430. Although hospitalizations have been falling since the start of the month, the drop in patient admissions seemed to be levelling off, as last week's reported decrease was roughly 33 percent.
"The falling hospital admissions are an effect of the measures implemented on November 28, including the evening hours lockdown. The effect of the measures from December 19 is expected to become clear in early January 2022," the RIVM stated.
A total of about 191 patients admitted last week were sent directly to intensive care units, down from 256 the previous week. The week before that, 338 were sent to intensive care, according to NICE. "Due to the long length of time Covid-19 patients stay, hospital pressure remains high."
Figures from patient coordination office LCPS showed a different situation. The organization said that 1,283 people were hospitalized because of serious symptoms of Covid-19, a week-to-week decrease of 16 percent. The total was at its lowest point since the first week of November. It includes 182 people sent to an ICU, compared to 211 the week prior.
The RIVM also learned of 272 deaths caused by Covid-19 during the past seven days, down from 322. A week before that, the RIVM reported 445 deaths.