The number of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands has more than doubled to 82, health minister Bruno Bruins confirmed on Thursday afternoon.
The cause of the sharp rise is likely to be a ‘catch up effect’ as people who realise or suspect they may be infected come forward and register, the minister said during a debate on the crisis in parliament. The spike is in line with the expectations of the public health institute RIVM.
One new measure being implemented by the government is to centralise the distribution of face masks and other protective equipment to hospitals and healthcare institutions, Bruins said.
The aim of the central distribution point is to stop shortages emerging in some areas, while others have large stockpiles.
Anyone returning from a high risk area and who develops breathing problems should stay home and monitor how the complaint develops, Bruins said. ‘It is not possible to test everyone with breathing issues for coronavirus,’ he said. ‘And we have to be prudent in the way we are using our doctors and hospitals.’
The Dutch hospital association has also drawn up new rules for medical staff who come into contact with corona patients or who have been in high risk areas such as northern Italy.
This follows the news that several healthcare workers have been infected with the virus by patients who were not aware they were carriers.
Meanwhile, the 900 members of Groningen student association Vindicat, who were on a skiing trip in the Italian resort of Sestrière, have decided to return to the Netherlands a day ahead of schedule.
On Tuesday, the government issued official advice recommending against all travel to northern Italy unless strictly necessary.
‘Although there is no medical need or reason to be concerned, we have decided to take no chances,’ the association said in a statement.
The students will return from Italy in 21 specially commissioned buses.
Worldwide, more than 95,000 people have been infected with coronavirus and some 3,300 have died.
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