No stricter lockdown rules in pipeline as hospitals approach patient limit


Ministers are not expected to announce extra coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday evening, despite cases surging past the 10,000 a day mark in the last week.

Instead prime minister Mark Rutte and health minister Hugo de Jonge are expected to issue a final warning to people to observe the rules or face ‘draconian’ rules at the end of the week, NOS quoted sources as saying.

On Monday a record 10,353 cases were reported in the previous 24 hours, representing an increase of nearly 30% week on week. The current ‘partial lockdown’, which includes the closure of all bars and restaurants and a ban on alcohol sales after 8pm, is set to continue for at least another two weeks.

The Albert Schweitzer hospital in Dordrecht suspended admissions to coronavirus patients for 24 hours unless they are in a life-threatening situation. ‘Every bed in the hospital is occupied,’ a spokesman told NOS. The situation is being reviewed on Tuesday afternoon.

‘This decision goes diametrically against our sense of duty and our social function. But there is no other option without compromising quality and the safety of patients who are entrusted to our care.’

Another hospital, the Sint Jans Gasthuis in Weert, Limburg, began constructing seven emergency units by its entrance to cope with an expected influx of Covid-19 patients. The buildings are expected to be ready by the end of the week and will be used as waiting rooms as well as for triage and treatment.

The 25 regional safety councils, which are responsible for policing the rules, have stepped up enforcement of the rules since the new restrictions were issued. Justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus said around 1,000 fines had been issued in the last two weeks.

‘We have been looking at how we can enforce the rules better,’ he said ahead of a meeting with economic affairs minister Eric Wiebes on Tuesday morning. ‘I will speak to the minister and the retail trade to ensure they are able to handle frontline enforcement.’

Hubert Bruls, head of the group of safety councils, responded to criticism of the handling of illegal parties in Hilversum and Zoetermeer, where police broke up the gathering but issued no penalties.

Police said it was impractical to expect a handful of officers to dish out dozens of fines and detaining large groups of people for long periods increased the risk of them infecting each other.

‘You can’t expect officers and enforcement wardens to fine everybody,’ said Bruls. ‘The first priority is to restore public order.’

The government also changed its travel advice for Italy, parts of Austria and northern Portugal from yellow to orange on Monday, meaning only essential journeys should be taken. Anyone returning from those countries is now required to spend 10 days in quarantine.

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