Over seven in 10 people in the Netherlands think the government should bring in specific measures to deal with the number of people who have not been vaccinated against coronavirus, according to a poll of 28,000 people by television current affairs show EenVandaag.
Some 60% of those polled said that people who have not been vaccinated should pay for the tests they need to take to access bars and restaurants themselves, EenVandaag found. The tests are currently free.
The government is due to announce next Tuesday what it plans to do to cope with the rise in coronavirus cases and hospital admissions. The number of positive coronavirus tests rose 50% last week, while the positive test rate rose from 12% to over 15%. Around one third more people were hospitalised while the number of deaths is also up 62% week on week.
Some 83% of the Dutch adult population is now fully vaccinated and the number is still creeping up slowly. But four in five of hospital patients have not been vaccinated, and this is why extra measures may be on the cards.
Nevertheless, several members of the government’s Outbreak Management Team have told news website Nu.nl that they do not support having specific measures targeting people who have not been vaccinated.
‘I do not back this at all,’ said microbiologist and doctor Jan Kluytmans. ‘This would really conflict with the freedom of the individual.’ In addition, special measures would be difficult to introduce because the unvaccinated are spread out over the country, in big cities and in the Bible Belt, he told the website.
Diederik Gommers, chairman of the Dutch intensive care association, told Nu.nl he did not want to differentiate between people. ‘You must be careful not to set different groups against each other,’ he said. Infectious disease professor Andreas Voss described the dilemma as ‘difficult’. ‘I do not think society should be held to ransom by a minority, but I am also opposed to all forms of discrimination,’ he said.
The OMT is due to make its recommendations on what should be done about the sharp rise in coronavirus cases to the cabinet later this week, ahead of next Tuesday’s press conference.
Health minister Hugo de Jonge said earlier that he is not ruling out introducing special measures for people who have not been vaccinated, but declined to go into detail.
Rather than introduce new measures, Kluytman told Nu.nl he would like to see the remaining ones being more rigorously enforced.
‘Keep to 1.5 metres and work at home when possible, stay home if you have symptoms and get tested,’ he said. ‘And use a QR code to access certain risky activities. These are all measures which seem to be being ignored.’
Research by both broadcaster NOS and the Parool, as well as anecdotal evidence, show that many cafes and restaurants are not checking that their customers have a valid QR code.
MPs too support enforcing the measures which remain rather than introducing separate rules for people who have not been vaccinated, including parties from the current coalition.
Excluding people who have not been vaccinated is a last resort, said D66 MP Jan Paternotte. ‘Every measure begins with enforcement. We have been hearing about places where there are few or no coronavirus pass checks,’ he said. ‘That has to happen first.’
Ernst Kuipers, head of the Dutch acute care network LNAZ, told television talk show Jinek on Tuesday night that everyone who has not been vaccinated will eventually get coronavirus.
‘If you want to keep the healthcare service available for everyone – be they a cancer patient or a coronavirus patient, then we have to do something about the total number of coronavirus patients we will have this winter,’ he said.
New measures are unavoidable, health economics professor Marcel Canoy told RTL Nieuws. The lack of IC capacity cannot easily be solved because of the shortage of staff, he said. ‘You cannot magic a thousand IC nurses from nothing,’ he said.
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