The RIVM has released another round of concerning coronavirus figures for the past week. Today, as we settle into the first day of a five-week national lockdown, there’s no mistaking the necessity for stricter measures.
Over the past week, there have been 58,412 new cases of coronavirus in the Netherlands. The previous week, there were 43,103.
In nursing wards, this past week saw 1,480 new coronavirus patients, up from 1,229 the week before.
ICUs also saw an increase in patients over the last seven days, with 222 admissions in the last week, up from 179.
The number of COVID-19 related deaths has also risen. The RIVM confirmed 398 deaths over the past week, compared to 338 the week prior.
The recent surge in positive coronavirus tests has been alarming. So much so, that drastic measures have finally been put into place to combat the spread.
Monday night’s press conference
In case you’ve managed to completely tune out the news for the past 24 hours, the Dutch government has released a series of new emergency measures to grapple with the unrelenting coronavirus. These were announced in a Monday night press conference by Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
The press conference held a sombre tone, as Rutte delivered the message that “the Netherlands will be closed.”
A record-breaking 34 million viewers tuned in to watch the prime minister’s speech, as he urged the public to consider the losses that businesses, individuals, and families have suffered during the pandemic. “Many people have lost their loved ones, businesses are in peril, people need contact around Christmas. But that’s why we need to make sure to follow the rules and take care of each other.”
Throughout the prime minister’s speech, loud whistles and jeering could be heard from a small but raucous group of protestors outside.
Rutte diverted from his script momentarily to address the noise that could be clearly overheard. “It’s not the flu, or something like that like the people outside are perhaps thinking,” the prime minister said as he pointed out the window.
Eventually, police broke up the demonstration and arrested two of the unruly protestors.
The five-week lockdown
Rutte listed seven new measures to be in effect until January 19:
- Primary and secondary schools will close and switch back to online learning (from December 16).
- Daycare is also closed.
- All non-essential stores are closed. These include clothing shops, craft stores, and garden centres, for example. (You can still buy a Christmas tree from a street vendor.)
- Essential stores that may remain open include grocery stores, banks, petrol stations, etc.
- Contact professionals like hairdressers and sex workers must take a hiatus.
- Medical professions such as therapists and dentists may continue to work.
- Public locations
- Public spaces such as theatres, museums, and zoos are closed.
- Hotels remain open but can no longer serve food and drinks to guests.
- Libraries remain open only for borrowing and returning books.
- Community centres stay open to provide services to vulnerable people.
- Groups of people
- The maximum number of guests in the home is now two. An exception is made for Christmas, when up to three people may visit the home on December 24, 25, and 26.
- Outside, no more than two people may be together.
- Sports and outdoor activities
- Gyms, saunas, and swimming pools will close.
- You may still go outside for fresh air and exercise. Outdoor exercise must be performed alone or in pairs.
- Children up to and including the age of 17 are allowed to play outside in larger teams or play outside matches with teams from their own club.
- Top athletes may continue to train and perform. No audience is allowed to come and watch.
- Only travel by public transport if absolutely necessary.
- Do not travel abroad. Do not book international travel until at least March 15.
- Domestic travel is still possible for those who wish to go to a cabin or bungalow.
- Travellers to the Netherlands from outside the EU are required to show a negative test result and signed statement. (This takes effect from 6 PM on Tuesday, December 15.)
- The government has issued very firm advice to “work from home at all times.”
Schools and daycares close so parents will work from home
According to Minister of Health Hugo de Jonge, one of the intentions behind closing schools and daycares is to nudge parents into working more from home.
This controversial plan has been met with some questioning. “Young children contribute little to the spread of the virus, so the direct effect of those measures will be small,” says Marc Bonten, a member of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT).
“You do this mainly so that parents have to stay at home and therefore travel less,” Bonten explains.
Vaccines in the Netherlands
Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The Dutch cabinet expects nearly 22 million vaccines to be available in the first half of 2021.
The vaccines are coming from a variety of drug companies, provided they receive the green light from the European Medicines Authority (EMA).
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