Quarantine rules for schools must change, ICU expert says as pandemic enters new phase
The quarantine rules for schools in the Netherlands need to change, or the more contagious but less severe Omicron variant of the coronavirus will put have more kids stuck at home, ICU doctor and head of intensive care association NCIV Diederik Gommers said to BNR. Hans Kluge, director of Europe at the World Health Organization (WHO), believes Omicron may signal that Europe is approaching a "pandemic endgame," NOS reports.
The current quarantine rule for primary- and secondary education is that an entire class must go into quarantine if there are three or more coronavirus infections. With the Omicron variant spreading like wildfire through the Netherlands, this rule resulted in about a quarter of primary school pupils being in quarantine last week.
"The intention is that as many children as possible can go to school for as long as possible, but that is not feasible with the current rules," Gommers said to the broadcaster. He stressed that it is essential for children to go to school as much as possible to not fall behind in their learning. "We've come up with a plan for that, but it does not seem to work. So a new proposal has to be made so that children don't have to be sent home every time."
The Omicron variant is more contagious than the previously dominant Delta variant, and as a result, the number of daily infections in the Netherlands has been skyrocketing for weeks. But as Omicron causes less severe symptoms than Delta did, the pressure on healthcare is still limited compared to the number of infections.
According to Kluge of the WHO, Omicron has put the pandemic in a new phase. "Once Omicron disappears, there will be a period of widespread immunity for many weeks and months," he said to French news wire AFP. "It is possible that the region is moving towards a pandemic endgame."
Kluge expects that about 60 percent of Europeans will have been infected with Omicron by March. This, combined with vaccinations, will lead to widespread immunity. Due to seasonal influences, there will also be a lower sensitivity to the virus.
"We expect a period of calm before Covid-19 returns by the end of the year," he said. Then the coronavirus will likely be endemic and manageable, like the flu, he expects. He did, however, temper expectations a bit. "The virus has surprised us more than once, so we have to be cautious."