Group immunity or a total lockdown: which way to go for the Netherlands to counter coronavirus?

In his speech yesterday, Prime Minister Mark Rutte stated that many people in the Netherlands will be infected with the coronavirus, and that this is necessary to build  ‘group immunity’ but that this should be done in a controlled way. 

The rationale behind this is that those who get the virus will become immune as the body will be able to develop antibodies. Consequently, they will have a smaller chance of becoming re-infected. So essentially the more people that have it, the more immunity is built.

This type of ‘group immunity’ would result in an increase of the population that is no longer susceptible, which would allow the virus to slowly die out according to Menno de Jong, a virologist at the Amsterdam UMC who was interviewed by RTLNieuws.

De Jong continues that this would create a ‘shell’ around the susceptible people (the elderly, people suffering from heart conditions etc). In order for this to work, 60% of the population would need to be cured from the virus.

However, it should be noted that this strategy may not necessarily work. William Hanage, an epidemiologist, argues that it is vaccines that create this ‘group immunity’ – not allowing people to become infected, and that we should not treat the pandemic ‘which will make a very large number of people sick, and some of them will die’ lightly. However, his piece is based on the earlier approach by the UK which was a whole lot looser than the current Dutch tactic.


To lockdown or not to lockdown?

A lockdown, according to de Jong, would likely not work in the Netherlands since the virus will not completely be eradicated and when people do leave their homes, they are still susceptible. This means that a major epidemic is still possible.

It might be necessary if there is too much pressure on the healthcare system (if too many people are sick at once and the curve needs to flatten slightly), or if a vaccine is in sight- in which case public life should be put on halt till people can vaccinate themselves.

But the latter is not an option- any vaccine would take at least a year before it can be released to the public. Even so, a second wave of a pandemic is a real thing, and the ‘group immunity’ idea may not succeed in preventing it.

The Dutch government’s strategy

The Dutch government has opted for ‘maximum control’ whereby the country is not on complete lockdown yet the quantity of social interaction is diminished due to some restriction.

This spreads the infections out over a longer period and prevents an overload on the healthcare system.

But it is unclear whether this will actually be an effective strategy. Perhaps a total lockdown might not be a bad idea- but that too is highly difficult to impose in ‘a open country’ like the Netherlands, as Rutte stated yesterday.

The way that Europe is dealing with the coronavirus raises questions as to how prepared it is to deal with a pandemic in the first place. But then again, these are unprecedented times and nobody needs to envy those in charge…

A word from DutchReview to you, our concerned reader

These are tough times, tougher times than most of us (there are, sadly, exceptions of course) born after WW2 have ever endured. We’re all concerned about the state of the country, world, our loved ones, our elderly neighbors and also not unimportant, our livelihoods. This all causes a lot of emotions. But we implore you to help us, yourself and your fellow reader out and respond in our comments with dignity. This is not the time to shout down others or to use profanity, no matter how much you disagree. We’re all in this together and want to find a way out, and all positive vibes and initiatives that have sprung up are truly heartwarming and offer a glimmer of hope. Let’s do this online as well and be kind and graceful in reacting as well (and wash your hands of course).

Check out our coronavirus guide and video

We’ve created a guide with everything you need to know about the coronavirus in the Netherlands, answering most, if not all questions you might have about the virus. You can also check out our video on the topic.

Follow DutchReview on Facebook for all information about the coronavirus in the Netherlands.

Feature image: Canva

Vedika Luthra
Vedika Luthra
Vedika was born in India, raised in Poland and moved to the Netherlands to study. Like her nationality, she’s confused about what she likes most, which is why her bachelor’s degree was in liberal arts and sciences. She enjoys writing about all things food-related but likes to mix it up every now and then.


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