Opinion is divided about tougher lockdown, as coronavirus cases rise again

A closed cafe in Amsterdam. Photo: DutchNews.nl
A closed cafe in Amsterdam. Photo: DutchNews.nl

A number of infectious disease specialists in the Netherlands are calling on the government to impose a tougher lockdown in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, saying the current measures are not having enough impact.

On Thursday, over 9,000 positive tests were registered with the public health agency RIVM, and although the rate of increase appears to be slowing, they say a ‘short, sharp’ lockdown is needed.

The group, calling themselves the Red Team, have been passing their own recommendations on dealing with the virus to the government for some weeks, and consider themselves an alternative to the official Management Outbreak Team.

Prime minister Mark Rutte has also described them as the group who ‘keep us on our toes’.

Red team member Wim Schellekens has now told RTL Nieuws that the rise in the number of infections shows the first measures introduced by the government have not had enough effect.

Schellekens says all shops part from supermarkets and pharmacies should be closed and schools should also shut their doors for two weeks.

‘If we go for a tough lockdown, we will be able to pick up some of our normal lives in two weeks,’ he said. ‘But in the meantime, we need to get the testing and tracing programmes up to speed.’

Too soon

However, Anja Schreijer, a member of the OMT, told broadcaster NOS it is still too early to assess if the partial lockdown is having an impact. ‘You can’t make policy on the day to day figures,’ she said. ‘The partial lockdown was introduced a week ago and people need to adjust their behaviour. Only then will the effect be felt and you will be able to see it in the figures.’

Meanwhile, the Twente public safety, lead by Almelo mayor Arjen Gerritsen, is calling for a total lockdown in the region as the positive test rate there rises to one in five.

‘We have seen an explosive increase in the number of infections,’ he said. ‘This morning we were looking at the potential situation with the celebrations in December. It could be a very quiet month.’

When the partial lockdown was announced earlier this month, the government said it would reassess the situation in two weeks time – or by next Tuesday. However, the partial lockdown would last at least four weeks, Rutte said at the time.

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