National measures needed to get coronavirus under control, experts say
As eight more regions go orange, fears of an imminent second wave are on the rise, and experts across the country are calling for the Dutch government to consider implementing national measures to get the spread of coronavirus under control.
More regions enter “worrying” phase
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, September 18, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge announced that six of the 25 security regions in the Netherlands had entered the “worrying” alert phase (code orange). At Wednesday’s parliamentary debate, Rutte announced that a further eight regions would join them.
These eight regions will then have to enforce stricter coronavirus measures in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading. The measures are expected to be announced on Friday, September 25.
The 14 regions affected are:
- Haaglanden (The Hague)
- Kennemerland (Haarlem)
- Hollands Midden (Leiden)
- Brabant Noord (Den Bosch)
- Brabant Zuidoost (Eindhoven)
- Gelderland Zuid (Nijmegen)
- Flevoland (Lelystad)
- Gooi en Vechtstreek
- Zuid-Holland Zuid
National coronavirus measures
A number of experts have voiced concerns about the regional approach to the coronavirus, stating that national measures are required to get the virus under control. Now that more than half of the national regions are code orange - affecting over 10 million people - they are calling for regional measures to be implemented.
Epidemiologist Hand Heesterbeek has said regional measures are ineffective in the Netherlands, because people regularly travel between regions: “The virus is spreading from the Randstad like an oil spill... People travel a lot from one region to another. You see too much mixing for regional measures to be effective.”
Heesterbeek says that the only thing that can prevent a second national lockdown - which no one wants - is people following the rules already in place. He calls on members of the public to keep their distance, avoid crowds, wear a mask when necessary, and stay home if they are experiencing symptoms.
A second coronavirus wave in the Netherlands?
The number of coronavirus patients being admitted to hospital is increasing by 10 percent every day. On Wednesday, there were 475 coronavirus patients in Dutch hospitals, 104 of which were being treated in intensive care.
In the past week, the number of people over the age of 70 who have become infected with the virus has almost doubled, from 433 to 816. This figure is worrying, as this group is more likely to end up in hospital, and so the number of hospitalised coronavirus patients will continue to rise.
Pressure on medical staff is rising again, and Leiden University Medical Centre has already announced that they have been forced to postpone surgeries due to rising coronavirus cases. These facts suggest that the Netherlands is at the start of what could become a second wave of the virus.
“Dutch” coronavirus vaccine
The coronavirus vaccine being developed by Janssen Vaccines in Leiden has entered the third phase of development, and is being tested on 60.000 volunteers in the United States, South Africa, and some South American countries. As part of the second phase, the vaccine was tested in the Netherlands, and around 135 volunteers here have received the vaccine since the start of September.
Virologist Hanneke Schuitmaker, who is leading the development of the vaccine, has said results so far are very promising: “So far, we only get good news.” It seems to be effective for both young and old people, with minimal side effects.
Schuitmaker has also emphasised that the speed at which the vaccine is being developed will not jeopardise its safety: “Of course we cannot see what the possible long-term effects are, but enough people are vaccinated to get an idea of how people react to it. That is no different than with other vaccine programmes.”
Janssen Vaccines hopes to have the first vaccines available by early 2021. Health Minister De Jonge said this news was a ray of hope.