The situation in the Netherlands with regard to coronavirus is ‘not looking great’, prime minister Mark Rutte told reporters at his weekly press conference after the cabinet meeting on Friday afternoon.
The public health institute RIVM registered 4,385 new positive coronavirus cases in the 24 hours to Friday morning, which is well above the average over the past seven days.
The figures are likely to have been impacted by the wintry weather, which led to several testing centres being closed for several days, and may also have discouraged people from going out for a test even if they had symptoms, experts say. In addition, tens of thousands of appointments had to be delayed because of the closures.
‘We still have to be extremely careful and try to slow the spread of the mutations,’ Rutte said. ‘We do not know if the increase is due to the weather or if the mutations are spreading more quickly, as experts say is likely.’
The cabinet on Friday agreed to set aside €200m for a ‘social support package’ to help build resilience against the impact of the virus on people’s mental and physical health.
Rutte said he recognised that young people in particular are having a hard time, but that calls from Amsterdam’s mayor and others to do more for youngsters depends on how much room there is to manoeuvre. ‘But with over 4,000 new cases and 500 people in intensive care,’ the options are limited so far, he said.
Opening secondary schools is a priority, if the situation allows it, as is scrapping the curfew he said. That decision is likely to be taken on February 23.
Friday’s press conference is the last for Rutte before the election on March 17.
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