Experts: Don’t relax coronavirus restrictions in the middle of the holidays
The next coronavirus press conference is scheduled for Friday, and with the decreasing number of new infections it’s possible Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge could announce a relaxation to some of the existing restrictions. But health experts are calling on the Dutch government to wait a little while longer before introducing any changes, arguing it would be best to wait until the summer holidays are over.
Too early for the Netherlands to lift restrictions?
The coronavirus situation in the Netherlands has changed significantly since some restrictions were reintroduced at the start of July: the infection rate continues to fall, hospital admissions appear to have stabilised, and over 10 million people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. All these factors mean that the Netherlands could see some restrictions lifted this week - but the experts don’t necessarily believe that would be the wisest move.
"Schools and universities are closed,” Gowri Gopalakrishna, professor of public health and epidemiologist at the VU in Amsterdam, told NOS. "There are far fewer people at work due to holidays. So there is less mobility and that means less virus transmission. These are all factors that play a role in the low numbers of now. But soon the holidays will be over and what will it look like then?"
Several of Gopalakrishna's colleagues agree, with one arguing it would be “illogical” to announce relaxations now. Gopalakrishna, however, says she understands the need for relaxations, and emphasises that as long as the government can clearly show that there is little risk of another wave in the autumn, she is not against restrictions being lifted.
Pressure from higher education to lift coronavirus restrictions
While the Dutch government has already announced a decision for large events and festivals, Friday should bring some clarity in regards to how schools and universities can resume learning in the new academic year. The cabinet is facing increasing pressure from higher education to relax restrictions so that students can return to class.
Education institutions have been asked to prepare for one of two scenarios: either the 1,5-metre distance advice remains in place, meaning students will continue to study from home, or the rule is lifted, allowing for students to return to campus as normal.
“If it's not allowed now, then when?" asks Henk Hagoort, vice-chairman of the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences. An official decision is expected on Friday, and the decision will be based on the proportion of students who are fully vaccinated, and the latest advice from the Outbreak Management Team (OMT).
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