Speculation is mounting about what the government plans to do to contain the spread of coronavirus, but it now seems likely that schools will remain open.
Both broadcasters NOS and RTL, and the AD newspaper, say schools will not close but will face extra measures, which could include face masks for older children.
Government health advisors are known to be divided on the schools issue. Youngsters under the age of 14 currently account for 20% of new coronavirus infections and the Netherlands is not vaccinating the under 11s.
Other measures being mooted include the closure of non-essential shops at 5pm, as well as what the government describes as ‘move through’ locations. The AD says that cafes, restaurants, clubs, museums and theatres will have to close their doors between 5pm and 5am from Sunday.
Shops, restaurants and bars currently have to shut at 8pm, while ‘contact professions’, such as hairdressers, must shut by 6pm.
The government has already agreed that booster vaccinations should be offered to everyone over the age of 18 and more details about this may also be announced. The European Commission has said that a booster dose may become a requirement to qualify for a EU coronavirus travel pass.
Health minister Hugo de Jonge said on Friday afternoon that the healthcare crisis in the Netherlands has entered a new phase, which means hospitals will have to start or step up cancelling routine operations to free up beds for coronavirus patients.
Routine care – care which will not lead to permanent health issues or care in which there is a minor risk of permanent damage – is now being put on hold. ‘All hip, knee and cataract operations will now stop,’ De Jonge said. ’We need to free up people so that coronavirus patients can be cared for.’
However, the Netherlands is not yet in a situation in which doctors have to choose between patients who need an intensive care bed, De Jonge said. Some hospital chiefs have warned that the Netherlands will face this scenario, which is known as code black, if the infection rate is not brought down.
IC capacity is now being expanded by 150 to 1150 beds and there is an option to expand this temporarily to 1350 beds, with the help of the armed forces, De Jonge said.
De Jonge and prime minister Mark Rutte host a press conference on Friday evening, which will be broadcast live on television. You can follow the proceedings via the DutchNews.nl Twitter account.
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