Dutch coronavirus lockdown likely to be extended by two weeks
According to new reports from The Hague, the coronavirus lockdown currently in place in the Netherlands is likely to be extended by at least two weeks.
The coronavirus situation in the Netherlands
In the weekly report published on January 5, the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) stated that, while the number of coronavirus infections had decreased, the percentage of positive tests remained high and the hard lockdown that came into effect before Christmas was yet to provide convincing results.
On Thursday, the RIVM also published an update on the spread of the new coronavirus strain in the Netherlands, initially discovered in the UK and now thought to have originated in South Africa. According to their report, the number of people diagnosed with this new, supposedly highly contagious strain has risen from 11 on December 29 to approximately 50.
Rutte likely to extend the lockdown
Following the RIVM’s report this week, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he was not optimistic about being able to lift any of the coronavirus restrictions currently in place in the Netherlands, saying: “If you look at the infection figures now, it is not very hopeful about what can be done after January 19.” However, on Tuesday he did say it was still too early to judge, and that he was awaiting advice from the Outbreak Management Team (OMT).
Only a few days later though, sources in The Hague have revealed to the NOS that the coronavirus lockdown is likely to be extended by at least two weeks. According to the NOS, cabinet ministers feel that the number of infections is still too high and that a relaxation of the measures would not be sensible.
On Thursday, Rutte stated that the reopening of schools in the Netherlands was a top priority, but he could not promise that this would be possible. If the rumours of an extended lockdown are true, it will mean schools, shops, restaurants, museums, cinemas, theatres, zoos, and theme parks will have to remain closed until at least early February.
Experts support the extension
Director of the RIVM, Jaap van Dissel has already stated that it wouldn’t be possible to relax measures until mid-February. However, many people note the high number of infections reported every day, and wonder whether the current lockdown is even working - and if it isn’t, what is the point in extending it?
Paediatrician epidemiologist at UMC Utrecht, Patricia Bruijning, told Het Parool: “The lockdown is working, but not well enough - when the strict lockdown started, the curve with the number of daily infections rose steeply. It is now running down, although not as quickly as hoped. If you cancel the measures, the curve will go up steeply again.”
The OMT is expected to issue their advice for the cabinet on Friday, with Rutte and Health Minister Hugo De Jonge scheduled to host the first coronavirus press conference of 2021 on January 12. This is when they will announce whether the lockdown is being extended, and for how long.