Hospitals call for new pandemic measures as coronavirus admissions rise

Intensive care units were at risk of being overwhelmed in the early weeks. Photo:
IC numbers have already reached the expected level for January. Photo:

Hospital bosses have called on the government to step up measures against coronavirus following a surge in patient admissions in recent weeks.

Wim van Harten, chair of the board of management at the Rijnstate hospital in Arnhem, told Trouw at the weekend that the healthcare system faced being overwhelmed again if the government did not intervene.

Since September 25, when the 1.5 metre social distancing rule was replaced by the ‘test for entry’ system, the number of positive tests per day has trebled from around 1,600 to nearly 5,000, measured as a seven-day average.

A week later the number of patients in hospital began to rise after falling steadily for two months. There are currently 743 people being treated for Covid-19 infections, compared to 422 on October 2.

On Sunday another 6,350 cases were recorded in the Netherlands, the first time since July 25 that the figure has been higher than 6,000 and a 44.2% increase since last week.

Van Harten said possible measures included reimposing the face mask mandate, stricter QR checks to ensure people gathering indoors have been vaccinated or tested negative, or rolling out third vaccine doses faster.

‘I don’t have the answers, but in The Hague they need to do whatever is necessary to make sure hospitals get through the winter without being overburdened.’ he said.

On Sunday all 320 residents at an asylum seekers’ accommodation centre in Goes, Zeeland, were ordered to quarantine after 49 people tested positive for the virus. The local GGD health board said it had not been able to trace the source of the infection.

The Isala hospital in Zwolle, where around half of Covid patients are from the Bible Belt village of Staphorst, said it would be urging patients and visitors to wear masks from Monday, but a spokesman added: ‘We’re not going to get into a debate with people at the front door.’

Members of the Outbreak Management Team, which advises the government on its coronavirus strategy, also said masks should be introduced, but on a voluntary basis.

‘If you take generic measures now, it will just lead to more polarisation,’ Diederik Gommers, chair of the intensive care association NVIC, told the Volkskrant. ‘Some people are angry that The Hague isn’t bringing in measures quickly, others are angry if The Hague brings in any measures at all.’

Gommers said he was particularly concerned at the number of patients in intensive care, which reached 179 on Sunday. According to the OMT’s prognosis on October 8 the occupancy level was not expected to hit 180 until January.

But he pointed out the vast majority of patients were unvaccinated and concentrated in areas where vaccine uptake is low. ‘We know where a lot of the unvaccinated people live and where the outbreaks are. That makes it very hard to say we should shut down the whole country again.’

The senior citizens’ organisation ANBO echoed the call for stricter pandemic control measures to be introduced and third vaccine doses to be given to older people who had their second jab in the spring.

‘We really think something needs to happen, but we’d rather leave it to the experts to decide exactly what measures to take,’ Renate Evers of the ANBO told the Radio 1 Journaal.

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