Lockdown easing and carelessness are driving the key R number up

Photo: D Nicholls-Lee
Photo: D Nicholls-Lee

Easing the lockdown measures and carelessness are increasing the rate of infection and may result in a second Covid-19 wave, public health institute RIVM expert Jacco Walllinga warned in Trouw.

The R number, which refers to the number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to on average, is slowly rising above the critical value of 1. This means the infection rate will accelerate again, Wallinga, who models the spread of the virus for the agency, told the paper.

‘People are not keeping ot the basic rules as much now that the country is coming out of lockdown,’ he said.

In the first couple of months of the pandemic the reproduction value in the Netherlands was around 2 and infections doubled every four days. Halfway through March, when the lockdown measures had been put into place, the R value fell to below 1. One in ten thousand people are now infectious, a fraction of the number at the peak of the outbreak, the paper said.

The RIVM had foreseen that the number of infections would rise after lockdown measures had been eased, Wallinga said. ‘I hope that the tracking and tracing programmes carried out by the local health boards will get the number below 1 again. If not, we will see more infections and more hospital admissions this summer.’

The newly announced dashboard is one of the ways in which the RIVM will be alerted to an elevated R number. If more than 10 people a day are admitted to hospital on three consecutive days, or more than 40 are admitted in a day, red lights will flash.

‘It is up to the government to act on those signals,’ Wallinga said. ‘We can handle a slightly higher R number because we have fewer infections at the moment but we cannot afford to let it slide.’

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