Future uncertain as Dutch parliament debated second coronavirus wave
On Tuesday evening, Dutch politicians debated the rising coronavirus infections in the Netherlands, and what it means for future coronavirus measures. Prime Minister Rutte announced plans for more regular press conferences, and the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) director spoke of a second wave for the first time.
Second coronavirus wave in the Netherlands
In the weekly update published by the RIVM, it was revealed that there has been over 13.000 new infections recorded since September 15. This was a 60 percent increase compared to the week before.
Last week also saw a significant increase in the number of hospital admissions - there are currently 458 coronavirus patients being treated in Dutch hospitals, with 103 patients in intensive care. This figure is similar to the one recorded in mid-March, when there were 95 patients in ICUs on March 14. A week later, this had risen to 426.
Fears of a second wave and potential regional lockdowns are rising, and at the parliamentary debate, Jaap van Dissel, director of the RIVM, warned the country was at a tipping point, and said we were at the beginning of a second wave.
However, it is important to note that experts are adamant that knowledge of the virus has increased significantly since the initial outbreak, and so doctors are now better equipped to care for patients.
Dutch parliament coronavirus debate
At the debate, Prime Minister Mark Rutte stated that he expected eight more security regions across the country will enter the “worrying” alert phase by Friday, September 25. Six regions are currently in this phase and under additional coronavirus restrictions. It is not yet known which regions will join them.
At the debate, members of the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) expressed significant concern for the government’s handling of the crisis. Politicians asked the cabinet to work harder to ensure the public did not lose faith in the coronavirus policy, and ensure that the approach and communication between the Dutch government and the people was clear.
Leader of the Socialist Party, Lilian Marijnissen, said the cabinet was losing its grip on the virus and consequently the trust of the people. Rutte has said he plans to hold more regular press conferences again, likely one every two weeks.
GGD testing and contact tracing
Politicians were also critical of the testing capacity in the Netherlands, and the waiting times for tests and for test results. Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said this was in part due to the fact that there were few large-scale test laboratories in the Netherlands, and that in mid-August the demand for tests increased suddenly and sharply - sharper than expected.
Speaking on Tuesday, Sjaak de Gouw, director of the GGD, said that there are as many as 10.000 people a day who request tests but cannot be tested. The capacity is currently 28.000 a day, but between 38.000 and 39.000 people are calling to book tests. The plan is that, as additional test materials become available, the capacity will rise to 50.000 a day in October.
De Gouw also acknowledged that the GGD was struggling to carry out source and contact research, as they are unable to keep up with the rapidly rising number of infections. The contact research was supposed to be supplemented by the government’s CoronaMelder app, but the launch date, initially scheduled for September 1, has been postponed indefinitely.