Outbreak team says lockdown extension likely; Retailers angered
Due to uncertainties about the "important characteristics" of the Omicron variant, the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) is not in favor of a quick relation of Covid-19 measures, apart from reopening schools. For the time being, the experts estimated that "further room to relax measures is expected at the end of January." By then, the booster campaign should have been completed and the hope is that the virus spread will decrease sufficiently. The OMT will discuss the decision further on Friday.
Business owners were frustrated by the advice of the OMT. Some entrepreneurs said that Cabinet should end public appearances by the OMT. "You create much unrest. Entrepreneurs are going crazy," director of the retail stores association INretial Jan Meerman told De Telegraaf.
Shopkeepers were angered that the Cabinet seemed to act solely on the wish of the OMT and did not hear the needs of the business owners. "It's crazy that we are the only country in lockdown," chair of the hospitality union Robin Willemsen said.
The OMT had various calculations for different scenarios. When primary and secondary schools reopen on Monday, it is expected to trigger a "wave of infections" peaking at the end of January or early February. According to OMT, the hospital admissions resulting from the wave could remain relatively limited. The number of patients in the ICU could rise to a maximum of 620 Covid-19 patients. Now there are 475 people with Covid-19 in the ICUs.
The OMT said a significant degree of uncertainty remains around these factors. For example, it is not yet clear how contagious Omicron is, how likely the chance is to end up in hospital and how effective vaccines are.
Preliminary research from the United Kingdom showed that Omicron spreads more rapidly than the Delta variant but leads to fewer hospital admissions. Although Omicron appears to be milder than delta, there is still a risk it could overload the healthcare system, the OMT said.
Furthermore, it appears that vaccines are less effective against Omicron than against the earlier virus variants. In their latest advice, the OMT cited British research that a booster shot would offer 65 to 75 percent protection against infection with symptoms. Yet, according to the preliminary British figures, after ten weeks, that effectiveness has decreased to 40 to 50 percent. After a booster shot, people are 80 to 90 percent protected against hospitalization. How long the protection will be maintained will have become clear in further research.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times.