Most cabinet ministers are meeting in The Hague on Tuesday morning to discuss the government’s response to coronavirus, which may now have infected 20 people in the Netherlands.
The ministerial crisis management committee meets at times of either a risk to national security or when another situation could have a major impact on society. Ministers will be briefed on both the health and the economic impact of the virus, officials said.
On Tuesday, prime minister Mark Rutte shrugged off criticism from some MPs that his cabinet had been too slow to respond to the emergence of the virus.
‘We have to be guided by the compass of those who know the situation,’ he said, referring to the public health agency RIVM.
The number of cases of coronavirus infection officially stands at 18 but overnight two more potential patients have emerged in the Dutch media – a five-year-old child from Alphen aan den Rijn, who was in northern Italy on holiday, and a person from Haarlem. Neither case has been officially confirmed.
The child has not been back at school since the half-term holidays and is being treated at home, local media said.
Meanwhile, health minister Bruno Bruins said in a briefing to MPs that the ‘second step’ is now being made in preparations for a large outbreak of the disease.
These include finding potential extra care workers and new locations to treat patients if there is a large rise in the number of cases.
‘The Netherlands has a broad healthcare system which can offer good care to a large number of people, but if there is a major outbreak of Covid-19 (coronavirus), then pressure on the service will increase,’ he said.
‘I want to stress that everything is being done to prevent the spread of the disease,’ Bruins said. ‘We are making preparations to take more far-reaching measures if that proves to be necessary.’
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