The past week has seen daily coronavirus infections increase by 76% but tonight’s press conference had little to offer in terms of new restrictions.
Tonight, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Minister for Health Hugo De Jonge focused primarily on the question of Christmas in the Netherlands.
In spite of earlier speculation that larger group sizes would be allowed in people’s homes for Christmas, this will not be the case. It was announced earlier today that the number of house guests that can visit per day will remain at three.
Tonight, the ministers clarified the government’s position on the subject. Rutte began by acknowledging that we would all like to be surrounded by friends and family this Christmas, but we cannot afford to do more than we are already doing now.
The prime minister reiterated that restrictions will remain in place as they are, meaning no extra guests and no dining out. The number of guests allowed over for the Christmas period will therefore stay at three. “We hoped for more, but numbers are no good.”
When asked whether he thinks this number is really possible, the Prime Minister warns that even this number cannot be guaranteed. If the number of positive cases continues to climb, this may change.
One reporter points out that the prime minister is hoping for coronavirus infections to drop over Christmas, yet he has not implemented any new measures.
At a crossroads
Rutte has said that coronavirus numbers are simply too high and the Netherlands now stands at a crossroads. He says that the country has two options: we either get the ICU number down to 10 intakes per day over Christmas and then lift restrictions slightly after, or we carry on as usual.
If the country carries on as it is now, stricter measures may be necessary. He warns these restrictions may be instituted before the holiday: “I might be back with heavier measures before Christmas.”
When asked about what the measures may be, the prime minister says he does not want to speculate on what later measures could be.
What can we do to help
Rutte asks that people take a number of precautions in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus over Christmas. He advises that people stay inside and wash their hands thoroughly. He also asks that anyone with symptoms gets tested and that anyone who tests positive should not leave quarantine; they should instead ask for help.
Testing for an open society
In January, the Netherlands will begin running tests for opening up society. Participants will be able to attend events such as sports matches and the rate of infection, if any, will be monitored.
The test runs will not take place in restaurants, the prime minister has confirmed.
There will be a further press conference tomorrow to discuss economic measures for the restaurant industry. The industry has suffered immensely this year and certain establishments are now threatening to open again in January, regardless of restrictions.
The prime minister suggested that families should order their Christmas dinners from their favourite restaurants in order to support the industry.
Rutte finished his section of the press conference with an acknowledgement of the hard work of healthcare workers. He says to “support the healthcare workers” by abiding by coronavirus measures.
When later asked about when restaurants can expect to be opened once again, Rutte said this will only be possible once the numbers are low enough. When pressed, he repeats that the goal of 10 ICU patients per day needs to be reached.
De Jonge then addressed the issue of vaccination in the Netherlands and particularly, how it will work. Health care workers will be the first to be vaccinated, followed by those who are vulnerable or work with vulnerable people.
He says the process will be a long one and that the entire country will most likely not be vaccinated until after the summer of 2021. He hopes that vaccinations will begin in January.
The minister for health finished his statement by asking that people stand by the current measures and “don’t give the virus as a present for Christmas.”
Coronavirus numbers climb
Coronavirus cases drastically increased in the last week, spiking up to 43,103 new positive test results from the previous week’s 33,949, according to the RIVM.
Although the number of people who were tested in the past week has increased from 259,377 to 320,205, so has the percentage of positive cases compared to the previous week, which went up to 11.6% from 11.1%. This means that the rise in cases cannot be explained by a rise in testing.
Current measures may extend past mid-January
While it was initially hoped that the current coronavirus measures would last until mid-January, it is now more likely that they will extend past this point. With coronavirus cases only going up as the country heads into Christmas, measures may indeed need to be tightened.
Further measures to be announced later
The cabinet has claimed that if new measures are to be brought in, these will be at a later point. De Jonge has warned that the length and strictness of the measures will depend on how high coronavirus infection rates are in the Netherlands.
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