Dutch hospitals and care institutions do have enough personal protection equipment to cope with a second wave of coronavirus infections, healthcare minister Hugo de Jonge told MPs on Tuesday, ahead of the evening’s debate on the government’s strategy to stop the spread of the virus.
The central procurement agency has more than one billion surgical face masks on order, and 700 million are already stockpiled in the Netherlands, he said. Almost 700 million gloves have also been ordered, of which 289 million are in storage.
The government will face tough questioning during the debate, amid mounting concern about the sharp rise in the number of coronavirus cases, as well as the apparent chaos at testing centres.
Healthcare workers and teachers are once again being given priority at drop-in test centres because waiting lists are building up and some people are having to wait 48 hours for their results.
Microbiologist Ann Vossen, who is part of the government’s OMT advisory team, told talk show Jinek on Monday night that if officials had realised demand for tests would be so high, preparations would have started five weeks earlier.
‘We did not expect the enormous demand for tests,’ she said. Last week, some 200,000 people were tested for the virus, and demand is expected to rise further as the weather turns colder.
Despite the demand for testing, research by television show EenVandaag shows that many people continue to go to work even though they have symptoms which require them to stay at home.
Some 27% of employees said they would not ask for a test and would continue to go to work even if they had symptoms. Last week prime minister Mark Rutte urged people not to go the office at all if possible, because work is one of the places where people are most likely to pick up the virus.
The public health institute RIVM will give its latest weekly update on the number of coronavirus cases in the Netherlands on Tuesday afternoon.