Dutch health institute was too pessimistic about Omicron, director says
The assumptions previously made by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) about the Omicron variant of the coronavirus were "too pessimistic," according to top infectious disease specialist Jaap van Dissel. This applies to the risk of hospitalization, for example. Two weeks ago, the institute estimated in model calculations that this was 40 percent lower than with the Delta variant, but that also seems too negative, Van Dissel acknowledged in a briefing to parliament.
The Omicron variant has supplanted the Delta variant, according to the RIVM. Omicron causes about 95 percent of new infections, said Van Dissel. "The picture is tilting," Van Dissel noted. He reiterated that Omicron is less likely to lead to hospitalization than Delta. Fewer people become so ill that they need intensive care, but to what extent, Van Dissel cannot say completely. "The percentages are continuously adjusted."
Based on the figures from countries ahead of the Netherlands regarding Omicron infections, Van Dissel can say that the variant still leads to considerable pressure on healthcare. Compared to other European countries, taking the number of inhabitants into account, there are a lot fewer coronavirus patients hospitalized in the Netherlands, NOS reports. In Denmark and Belgium, hospitalizations are twice as high proportionally and five times as high in the United Kingdom, Spain, and France.
Translated to the Dutch situation, those numbers would put "very significant" pressure on the healthcare system, Van Dissel said, according to NOS. "You wouldn't want those numbers in the Netherlands."
Van Dissel added that some of the coronavirus patients currently in Dutch hospitals have the Delta variant. They were infected earlier when the Delta variant was still dominant.
The Omicron variant is currently mainly circulating among younger people. The infection rates are much lower among people over 60, most of whom have had their booster shots. At the same time, the latest RIVM figures make clear that the booster shot also "does not offer 100 percent protection," Van Dissel said.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times.