Wednesday 22 March 2023

Group immunity not main aim of Dutch anti-corona measures, says health chief

Photo: Brandon Hartley

Creating herd immunity for coronavirus is not the main aim of the Dutch government’s current strategy, RIVM chief Jaap van Dissel told MPs on Wednesday.

‘Group immunity is absolutely not an aim in itself,’ Van Dissel said at a meeting with MPs ahead of Wednesday afternoon’s debate. The Dutch approach has been widely categorised as focusing on group or herd immunity, and has faced much criticism in the international media.

Nevertheless, the advantage of developing immunity is that it strengthens the impact of other measures, Van Dissels said. In the meantime, a vaccine could be developed to protect everyone.

That, he told MPs, is the ultimate aim. ‘It is about combating the virus and protecting vulnerable groups: elderly people and people with poor health,’ Van Dissel said. A balance, he said, has to be found between total lockdown and an approach in which you try to control the virus as much as possible.

While the concept of a total lockdown will makes sure fewer people become infected, when you return to normal life, society will again be exposed to the danger, Van Dissel said.

In addition, there is very little difference in the approaches between European countries, Van Dissel said. ‘Some countries say they are in lockdown but if you look at the measures they are taking, you can see they are not,’ he said.

The Netherlands has closed schools and universities, ordered bars and restaurants to shut and told people to work from home as much as possible. People have not been ordered to stay home.

Coronavirus in the Netherlands: your questions

Prime minister Mark Rutte said on Tuesday evening that he did not rule out a shift to a total lockdown in the Netherlands, but at the moment there is no question of the health service being unable to cope.

Rutte too said the Dutch strategy differs very little from other countries. In Belgium and France the temporary lockdown has been instigated because hospital intensive care wards are struggling to cope, the prime minister said.

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