Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Minister for Health Hugo de Jonge have fronted the press. A new range of regional measures have been announced amid skyrocketing coronavirus numbers.
Rutte warned that the reproduction number, which measures how many people one person with the virus infects, has already grown to 1.4. “Yesterday we had over 1700 infections,” said Rutte. “With an R number of 1.4 that number will grow to 10,000 a day within three weeks. We can’t do that to healthcare workers. Not again.”
The government has created a risk three-level system for measures in different parts of the Netherlands. “We want to target the virus hard, with an angle toward certain regions.”
- Level One — Vigilant: subject to normal measures
- Level Two — Worrying: infections are rising, worrying situation with additional regional measures that would help to stop the spread.
- Level Three — Serious: Strict measures to protect vulnerable people and manage the healthcare system.
Already, six regions will be classed as a Level Two: Amsterdam-Amstelland, Rotterdam-Rijnmond, Haaglanden, Utrecht, Kennemerland and Hollands-Midden. New measures will apply in these regions from Sunday at 6 pm.
“We want to hit the virus hard, and the region and economy not hard,” explained Health Minister De Jonge. “That’s why we chose a regional approach.”
What are the new measures?
Additional measures announced this evening for the Level Two zones include:
- Bars must close at 1:00 AM, and no new people can be let in after midnight (when the music also stops)
- No more than 50 people in one group, including for weddings.
- However, demonstrations, funeral, religious events, and schools can have more than 50 if they can demonstrate how they will abide by measures. These must have authorization.
However, local municipalities will announce their own measures from 8:00 pm this evening. Municipalities that have announced their new rules are below, we’ll continue to update this article as others release their new measures.
Amsterdam-Amstelland (including Amsterdam)
- Shopping baskets will be counted and disinfected again.
- Public buildings such as libraries, city district offices and swimming pools will be open at certain times of the day to the elderly and people in poor health. Shops and museums are asked to do the same.
- To prevent illegal parties, places like parks will be preventatively closed off at night.
- Measures to prevent excessive crowding in public space will be implemented, for example by setting up one-way traffic, (temporarily) closing off streets to car traffic or dosing at the entrance if it gets too busy.
- Enforcement and the police will continue to carry out targeted checks at places where people gather, such as party and conference locations, cafes, restaurants and sports canteens.
Rotterdam-Rijnmond (including Rotterdam)
- The Rotterdam Rijnmond Safety Region will focus more on enforcement of the corona measures, including in markets and in places where many young people gather.
- Supermarket owners are also called upon to pay more attention to compliance with the corona measures.
- Mouth mask requirements have not been re-implemented, but Mayor Aboutaleb has not ruled out the possibility.
Haaglanden (including Den Haag)
- there will be a crackdown on the enforcement of coronavirus measures. Catering establishments, party halls, sports facilities and student societies will be subject to inspections. If the rules are repeatedly broken, it will be closed for a month. If the measures are subsequently ignored again, it will be closed for a period of three months.
Hollands-Midden (including Leiden)
- no additional measures except for the widespread measures announced above.
Kennemerland (including Haarlem)
- no major additional measures, but the safety region stressed that it will approach institutions and businesses for enforcement measures.
- the Safety Region will investigate the possibilities and need for setting window times in shops and government institutions such as libraries and community centres, so that vulnerable groups can visit them at a quieter time.
- Where possible, there will be stricter enforcement of compliance with the measures, including the accelerated closure of institutions or locations where a source of infection has arisen.
- There will be further supervision and enforcement in parks and other areas with a risk of illegal parties, and sectors where excessive contamination takes place.
New national measures
In addition, general measures that apply nationally include:
- Student houses need to make rules about how they are going to reduce the spread.
- Supermarkets will potentially open only for vulnerable people at certain times.
- More checks outside, illegal parties will be stopped (all regional measures)
- For children under the age of 12 with mild symptoms, there’s no need to be tested, and they may attend school. This avoids missing school or taking up valuable testing capacity.
Shortage of test appointments
De Jonge also addressed the testing delays occurring throughout the Netherlands. “If you try to make an appointment there is a long wait time. We’re working very hard to get some more lab capacity,” he said.
“We’ve bought new machinery, new materials, and we’re making deals with labs and looking for new ways, like a quick test.” However, he warned that this will take a few weeks, so only people with symptoms should get tested. Teachers and healthcare workers now have priority for testing.
The past four days have seen record-breaking infections for coronavirus in the Netherlands. A total of 1977 infections were reported to RIVM before 10:00 am today for the 24-hour period beforehand. The highest daily number before this week was on April 10, with 1327 infections. However, it’s important to note that at the time not all of the population could be tested.
Hospitalizations have been slower to increase. But the number has risen by 67% in the past seven days. There are currently 58 patients in ICU, and a further 230 COVID-19 patients in hospital.
Ernst Kuipers, chairman of the National Acute Care Network, says that the greatest crowds are in Amsterdam and Rotterdam hospitals. “Appropriate measures are needed there to stem the increase in the number of new patients,” he said.
Where are the majority of infections occurring?
The government identified several worrying areas where clusters are emerging. Geographically, areas in the Randstad have had the highest numbers of infections, leading to the level two rating above.
Young people who are more relaxed about distance are also contributing to the rise in cases, said De Jonge. People partying on a Friday go to the supermarket on a Saturday and visit their grandmother on a Sunday. “That’s how the virus spreads,” he said.
Het gaat niet goed met het coronavirus in ons land. In de regio's waar het aantal besmettingen het snelst toeneemt, worden aanvullende maatregelen genomen om de verspreiding van het virus tegen te gaan.
— Mark Rutte (@MinPres) September 18, 2020
Translation: The corona virus is not going well in our country. In regions where the number of infections is increasing fastest, additional measures are being taken to prevent the spread of the virus.
However, Rutte also stressed that over 10% of infections occur in the workplace. He urged everyone to work from home. Restaurants, bars, and cafes are also responsible for clusters of infections.
“If we don’t turn the tide, shops and cafes will have huge consequences. For the people that work there and entrepreneurs, it will be terrible,” Rutte warned.
Stress on healthcare
The government wants to avoid a situation where the hospitals are overrun. “The hospitals are less full, the time in the ICU is shorter, and we know more about treatment,” said Rutte. But he warned that hospitalizations are increasing.
“With the increasing amount of patients, the nurses and healthcare workers have more pressure on them in Amsterdam and Rotterdam,” he said. “They’ve started special COVID sections in the hospitals. In nursing homes, numbers are also increasing. That’s where the most vulnerable people are who we have to protect.”
“It’s not the second-wave yet in hospitals, but we have to work together or the virus will spread again,” said De Jonge. “We know more about the virus, so we can slow this second wave.”
People encouraged to keep up with measures
Rutte acknowledged that people are tired of following basic rules like keeping distance or hand washing. “People are getting hungry for contact, they want to go out and have fun, we understand that. But it’s not clever,” he said.
He stressed that when numbers lowered, it was not because of testing or contact tracing, but because of urgency from the people to bring the numbers down. “In the end, it’s not the measures that kill the virus, we have to do it,” said Rutte. “We have to follow the measures and keep going, only then can we break the second wave.”
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