Preventing lockdown is key to long-term Covid strategy; GGD testing requirement reduced
The Cabinet of the Netherlands revealed details of its long-term strategy for dealing with the coronavirus. Business sectors are being asked to develop plans for dealing with future outbreaks of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in four different scenarios, from mild to severe. At the same time, it will no longer be considered essential that people with symptoms of Covid-19 visit a GGD center to get tested. Moving forward, healthy lifestyles, fitness, and exercise will be encouraged more frequently, NOS reported.
No concrete promises were made that would guarantee never returning to a locked-down society. "The aim of the strategy is to guarantee an open society, even if we end up in an unfavorable scenario," the Ministry of Health wrote in a document titled, Long-term Strategy for Tackling Covid-19, which was sent to the Tweede Kamer on Friday, according to NOS. "If the virus shows a strong revival again, it cannot be ruled out that measures will have to be taken to keep society open, and to keep healthcare accessible."
The Cabinet's immediate focus in a bleak situation will be to keep the education and childcare systems open at all costs, NOS reported.
Business sectors will be asked to prepare plans for four different scenarios, beginning with one in which the coronavirus infection is more like a common cold, and ending with a "worst-case scenario." In that situation, the healthcare system is overloaded, and the number of sick and gravely ill people rises, the Ministry of Health wrote in the document, which was also reviewed by ANP.
These plans can include one-way walking routes, visitor limits, and the hybrid use of work-from-home, NOS reported. Preparing for each situation should prevent more sectors from being closed, and should limit the need for the Cabinet to intervene harshly, the ministry said.
Additionally, the Cabinet is also trying to determine how to maintain sufficient staffing levels in the healthcare sector, and how it may be possible to scale up flexibly when needed. Preparations will be made for more vaccination rounds in the future, and other treatments for people with Covid-19. This includes providing oxygen to patients who can be treated at home, but also reviewing new medications as they become available, ANP reported.
A review of the 39-page document by ANP determined there were several sections lacking in concrete details. The ministry said that more information should be available when an update is sent to parliament in June.
Self-test use to replace current testing advice
The GGD will continue to offer PCR testing for coronavirus infections, which can be useful for those who need official proof of recovery from the coronavirus infection. The health services will also continue to test people who are more vulnerable members of society, and those unable to use a self-test kit, NOS reported. PCR testing will be scaled up quickly, if an outbreak occurs in the future.
The new advice to the public about testing will take effect from April 11, and will no longer impress upon people the importance of confirming a positive self-test with the GGD, NOS reported. Instead of visiting the GGD, the public will be asked to hold themselves accountable, and use self-test kits to decide for themselves the best way to move forward. "The Cabinet is calling on society to take responsibility for this, and is looking at sectors to encourage the use of self-tests," the document stated, according to ANP.
The cost of self-tests will not be reimbursed by the Dutch government, NOS reported. The government will issue new advice about what to do when a self-test indicates someone is positive for the coronavirus infection. The Cabinet wants people to continue to follow basic pieces of advice, like remaining home if symptomatic, washing hands frequently, and coughing or sneezing into an elbow.