Dutch Prime Minister apologises for miscalculation in lifting restrictions
After facing pressure from the events industry and medical experts in the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge apologised for the “error of judgement” the Dutch government had made in lifting restrictions at the end of June.
Dutch government apologies for "error of judgement"
Rutte emphasised that, when the decision to lift the last set of restrictions on June 26 was made, figures from the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) and the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) suggested that it would be safe to do so. While the government had expected a slight increase in coronavirus infections after nightclubs reopened, the reality saw infections rise at a much faster pace than was anticipated.
“What we thought was possible, turned out to be wrong in practice. We made an error in judgement there - we are disappointed and we apologise for that,” Rutte said on Monday. De Jonge also said his Dansen met Janssen (“Dancing with Janssen”) campaign, which encouraged young people to get vaccinated so they could go out with friends, was an “error of judgement.”
Over the weekend, Diederik Gommers, chairman of the Dutch Association for Intensive Care, voiced his displeasure with how Rutte and De Jonge had handled the situation at their press conference on Friday. “I don't understand why [they] didn't just say sorry at the press conference,” Gommers wrote on Instagram. On Monday, the Prime Minister acknowledged that their most recent press conference “was not our best.”
Hospitals in the Netherlands expect rise in coronavirus hospitalisations
Many young people who had taken Rutte and De Jonge’s advice to heart, booking appointments for the Janssen vaccine and going to nightclubs with friends after they reopened on June 26, were pleased to hear the Prime Minister and Health Minister apologise on Monday. “It's easy to say that Rutte has done everything wrong,” 24-year-old Leonie told NOS. “I understand very well that the government wanted to relax to give nightlife a chance. But it was not well thought out."
In addition to issuing an apology for rushing into too many relaxations, Rutte and De Jonge released urgent advice to anyone who had significant “risky” social contacts over the weekend, asking them to stay at home, see as few people as possible, and get tested for COVID-19.
The government and the Dutch healthcare system are particularly concerned about the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant. While hospital admissions have remained relatively low, hospitals now expect to see a spike in intensive care admissions this week as a result of the rising number of infections. “Caution and vigilance are warranted,” said a spokesperson for the National Coordination Centre for Patient Distribution (LCPS).