Coronavirus measures over Christmas: A longer holiday and max 3 guests?
On Tuesday, the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) issued their advice for the Dutch government in regard to the national coronavirus measures and the upcoming Christmas holiday. The OMT wants to look into the possibility of extending the school Christmas holidays by a week, in the hopes that this could lead to a drop in the number of infections.
OMT: Extend Christmas holiday
Many experts on the OMT are unsure if this measure will be effective, but those in favour of a longer holiday note the temporary drop in the number of infections that occurred after schools in the Netherlands closed for the autumn break.
While the OMT hopes that taking this step could slow the spread of the virus, the Red Team - an independent group of 12 scientists who provide information and advice on how to tackle the ongoing spread of coronavirus - thinks temporarily reverting to the home-schooling system that was adopted during the first lockdown in the spring would make more sense than closing schools a week early.
Wim Schellekens, former Chief Inspector for Health Care and member of the Red Team, told radio station BNR that the point of the measure is to keep children at home and stop them from coming into contact with too many people, but he said this could be done without them having to miss out on their education if, for a week or two after the end of the Christmas holiday, they were homeschooled.
Might not be possible to relax measures for Christmas
On December 8, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge and Prime Minister Mark Rutte are set to give a press conference and announce once and for all what measures will be in place over the Christmas period. At the last press conference on November 17, they announced that they hoped to relax the measures a little in time for Christmas, and perhaps even allow some catering establishments to reopen.
However, the OMT advice states that it would be unwise to allow restaurants to open in December: “Given the current epidemiological circumstances, the OMT does not see any room to open restaurants by mid-December.” Furthermore, they have revised their advice for the number of guests a household should be able to receive at Christmas: initially, they advised for a maximum of six guests; that has now been reduced to only three.
Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, De Jonge said he was concerned about the number of infections, saying they were not dropping fast enough. He stated that, as long as the number of contagious people remained above 100.000 and there were between four and five thousand new infections reported per day, the government would not be able to relax the national measures. He also revealed that it is possible that the coronavirus measures will have to be strengthened over the holidays, and that the semi-lockdown currently in place across the Netherlands could remain in place past mid-January.