Dutch government set to extend coronavirus lockdown by three weeks
While it may feel as though the end is in sight with the arrival of the first doses of the Moderna vaccine scheduled for Monday, news of a three-week lockdown extension shows the Netherlands has a long way to go before it can return to normal.
Dutch lockdown to be extended by three weeks
Last week, sources in The Hague reported to NOS that the current hard lockdown was likely to be extended by (at least) two weeks. But following a meeting on Sunday between Prime Minister Mark Rutte, his cabinet ministers, and director of infectious disease control at the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM), Jaap van Dissel, it looks as though the lockdown will be extended by three weeks.
Businesses belonging to certain sectors will be eligible for additional financial support. The cabinet is also considering whether it will be possible to reopen primary schools before the lockdown is lifted, but when exactly they would be able to open is yet to be determined. While it doesn’t look as though the Dutch government will introduce further restrictions, the option is not entirely out of the question.
The introduction of a three-week extension will mean cafes and restaurants in the Netherlands will enter into their fourth consecutive month of closure. A spokesperson for the largest union representing hospitality businesses in the Netherlands, Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN), said: “We have been closed for so long now, this is really unprecedented. It is little consolation that all measures are being extended, so we are not, as before, the only entrepreneurs who have to close.” The sector is keen to see what financial support the government will offer them over the coming weeks.
Moderna coronavirus vaccine arrives in the Netherlands
The first doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine will arrive in the Netherlands on Monday and the RIVM will draw up a nation-wide distribution schedule for the doses. The country is set to receive a total of 400.000 doses in the first quarter of 2021, but this initial delivery will consist of only 13.000 doses.
According to the national vaccination strategy, the Moderna vaccine will be distributed amongst residents of nursing homes and similar care facilities and psychiatric hospital patients. However, the Health Council of the Netherlands will issue advice on Monday in regards to which demographics the Moderna vaccine is most suitable for.
Growing fear of a harsh third wave
While it seems that the spread of coronavirus in the Netherlands does appear to be slowing, the existence of the new, highly-contagious coronavirus mutation means experts across Europe are harbouring growing fears of a large third wave.
Prime Minister Rutte has also reported concerns that this new mutation will “gradually displace the virus as we know it.” According to the RIVM, only around 50 cases of this so-called “British coronavirus” have been reported in the Netherlands. If the new strain does continue to spread, pharmaceutical companies have said their vaccines will be effective against any mutations of coronavirus.
But reports on Friday revealed that a new mutation of the virus - one reported to have originated in South Africa - has also been detected in the Netherlands. This variant is also believed to be significantly more contagious than the dominant strain. So far, only one case of the new variant has been confirmed.