The government’s coronavirus advisory team says mass testing at regional centres can be wound down and that the recommendation to use self tests if people have symptoms can be dropped.
In its 146th set of recommendations since the pandemic began three years ago, the Outbreak Management Team says the Omicron variant of the coronavirus and its sub variants is now at an endemic phase in the Netherlands – which means it is present, but that the pandemic has ended.
This means most regional health board testing centres can be closed – as long as they can be opened up again quickly should a new, more serious variant, arrive.
In addition, free self tests no longer need to be distributed at schools and to people on minimum incomes and other measures, such as five days quarantine after a positive test, can be abandoned.
‘The OMT recommends that measures against Covid-19 should be, as far as possible, in line with the generic measures for the prevention of other infections of the airways, which means coughing and hand hygiene and staying home if you feel ill,’ the recommendations state.
Although it is up to the government whether to accept the proposals, ministers usually follow the OMT’s advice.
The OMT also says healthcare workers should no longer be required to wear a face mask if they have close contact with patients, although they should continue to use them when working with patients who could become seriously ill with coronavirus or another infection of the airways.
Health minister Ernst Kuipers has sent the OMT’s latest recommendations to MPs and it is unclear when a decision about whether or not to adopt them will be taken.
Vaccinations are not covered by the OMT advice.
On Thursday, 23 coronavirus patients were being treated in intensive care and 561 in a normal hospital ward. Infections have risen slightly over the past week, but it is too soon to see any clear impact of the Carnaval celebrations.
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