Sunday 25 October 2020

‘We need to go back into lockdown,’ Dutch acute care chief says

Hugo de Jonge launching the app in Nijmegen on Saturday. Photo: Koen van Weel

The Netherlands needs to go back into lockdown as a matter of urgency to prevent hospitals becoming overloaded again, the head of the country’s intensive care association has said in a newspaper interview.

Diederik Gommers told the AD he had had enough of the ‘half-baked’ measures brought in by the cabinet since the number of coronavirus infections began to rise. The soaring infection rate – there were over 6,500 new infections in the 24 hours to Saturday morning – means tough measures are needed, Gommers said.

‘I am a major supporter of going back into lockdown as soon as possible,’ he said. ‘And not an “intelligent” lockdown, but a complete one,’ he said, referring to the Dutch government’s strategy in March. ‘Without it, nothing will change.’

Freedom to spread: why the Dutch are topping the infection charts

In March the government closed schools, cafes, restaurants and cinemas and told people to stay home as much as possible. But it did not ban people from going out or tell shops to close down.

Gommers said he was aware that a full lockdown would be a difficult position for the government to take, given the impact on the economy. But the current ‘soft’ approach is having an impact on the economy as well he said, because it is ‘not effective and takes longer’.

The likelihood of new measures increased on Saturday when the public health institute reported there had been 6,504 overnight positive tests, with 627 of them in Amsterdam.

Hospitals

In total, 1,190 people are in hospital, of whom 235 are in intensive care. At the height of the pandemic, nearly 1,500 people were in IC units, and some had been moved to hospitals in Germany.

‘Things are clearly not heading in the right direction,’ health minister Hugo de Jonge said at the launch of the nationwide coronavirus tracing app. ‘This is exactly the trend we did not want to see.’

Prime minister Mark Rutte said on Friday that the weekend and Monday would be crucial, and that the impact of new restrictions introduced a week ago should then be felt.

Insiders say they expect Rutte and De Jonge to announce tough new measures at Tuesday’s press conference.

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