Monday 23 November 2020

Mass testing has made coronavirus visible, says Dutch health minister

Photo: DutchNews.nl

Coronavirus in the Netherlands has become visible and that is making it possible to intervene in a ‘timely and focused’ way, Dutch health minister Hugo de Jonge has told MPs.

‘We got the virus under control together and we will have to keep it under control together,’ De Jonge said in a briefing to MPs on Tuesday.

New figures published on Tuesday show the number of infections in the Netherlands is rising in absolute terms, although experts suggest this may be due to the increase in testing. The number of tests carried out has more than doubled since the beginning of June and has risen sharply in the past two weeks.

‘There are a surprising number of positive tests among people aged 20 to 40, a group which has mild symptoms,’ De Jonge said. ‘This is not a group which is likely to end up in hospital… but the risk of them not getting a test or keeping to the rules is that they may infect others who are more vulnerable.’

Efforts are also being made to remove testing bottlenecks, which have led to complaints about delays and waiting lists. ‘And in places where the situation is more complicated, people are ready to scale up capacity and deliver regional, tailor-made approaches,’ the minister said.

Face masks

The government’s committee of experts met on Tuesday at the minister’s request to consider if there is a need to widen the compulsory use of face masks, which are currently only a requirement on public transport.

The team is expected to report back to De Jonge on Tuesday evening or Wednesday, after which ministers will decide what to do.

MPs had called for a rethink, even though experts say they do not consider the use of masks contributes to reducing the spread of the virus.

Safety boards

In addition, regional safety boards are meeting in Utrecht on Wednesday to decide if the increase in infections requires any further action on their part. According to broadcaster NOS, Amsterdam and Rotterdam are keen to introduce the wider use of face masks if they consider it to be necessary.

The safety boards had been due to meet mid-August but have brought forward their gathering because of the rise in coronavirus cases.

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