The weather in the Netherlands is not the only thing that feels gloomy right now. The country is currently more than three months into its third lockdown with the end nowhere in sight.
In the weeks preceding the Dutch general election, there were hopes of slowly relaxing the current coronavirus restrictions in time for Easter. Now that the ballots have been closed and the results are clear, it seems that the promised relaxations are out the window again.
Infections in the Netherlands continue to rise and some hospitals are on the brink of overflowing. According to the Netherlands’ Outbreak Management Team (OMT), the country can only really get out of this soul-crushing lockdown in two months, reports the NRC.
Relaxations not possible
The government consulted the OMT on Friday, discussing possible relaxations for higher education, terraces, gyms, and the curfew. However, the conclusion of the team was clear: relaxation at this stage isn’t a good idea.
“The R-value is 1.13, we are still at more than 100,000 infectious people and the hospital admissions are increasing. Those are three signs that point in the wrong direction,” says the microbiologist and member of the OMT, Marc Bonten.
Vaccination leader vs. vaccination laggard? pic.twitter.com/odj66SwLV5
— alexandre afonso (@alexandreafonso) March 23, 2021
Pressure on healthcare
Both the current Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, as well as the leader of D66, Sigrid Kaag, have been hoping to take into account factors other than just healthcare when considering coronavirus restrictions.
However, their hopes were swiftly crushed by the director of RIVM, Jaap van Dissel. We are still in a “serious epidemiological situation” and the pressure on the healthcare system could become too great, he warns. For now, the cabinet is at least considering moving the curfew to 10 PM instead of 9 PM.
Two more months of lockdown
The OMT expects serious relaxation only to be possible in about eight to ten weeks. This should coincide with vulnerable groups of the population receiving the first dose of the vaccine. According to Bonten, we won’t start to see the real effects of vaccination until the end of May.
Dutch nurses, unvaccinated. Doctors, unvaccinated. People over 70, unvaccinated. People with vulnerable health, unvaccinated.
It still matters. And it’s still a grotesque state failure. https://t.co/dfYZ7LfOQZ
— Ben Coates (@bencoates1) March 23, 2021
Some critics have pointed out that opening terraces under strict conditions may actually be safer than the large groups of people who are currently gathering in public spaces. But the OMT believes that any relaxation will bring more infections.
The Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, will announce the measures effective after March 31 in a press conference tonight. Despite the currently bleak outlook, he expects a “completely different situation” in two months.
The government will continue to assess the possibility of smaller relaxations over the course of the coming weeks.
How do you feel about potentially being in lockdown for another two months? Let us know in the comments below!
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