Thursday 30 March 2023

De Jonge signals new coronavirus measures, patient numbers rising ‘too fast’

Health minister Hugo de Jonge says new measures are needed. Photo: ANP/Robin Utrecht

The cabinet will decide next week what measures to bring in to curb the rapid rise in coronavirus patients in the last week.

Health minister Hugo de Jonge told NOS that numbers were rising ‘faster and sooner than we expected’, but said the outlook was complicated by the fact that the majority of people in hospital are unvaccinated.

‘It’s just not as easy as going back to the measures that worked before, because our analysis shows that it’s mainly unvaccinated people that have the biggest risk of being infected and infecting others,’ he said.

The cabinet had been due to announce the next stage of pandemic rules on November 5, but ministers have come under pressure from medical professionals to act sooner.

Since September 25, when the social distancing rule was abolished and the Corona Check pass was brought in for indoor venues, the average number of infections per day has trebled to nearly 5,000.

On Sunday the number of patients in hospital rose to 748, exceeding the last peak in mid-August and 35% up on a week ago. On Monday the figure rose again to 796, including 199 people who are being treated in intensive care.

Some hospitals have begun transferring coronavirus patients to other parts of the country amid warnings that the healthcare system will be overloaded if the government does not act soon. On Sunday the HagaZiekenhuis in The Hague temporarily suspended patient admissions and directed ambulances to other hospitals in the region.

Diederik Gommers, chair of the intensive care association NVIC, said the number of patients in intensive care had already exceeded the projected level for January.

‘We know where a lot of the unvaccinated people live and where the outbreaks are,’ he said. ‘That makes it very hard to say we should shut down the whole country again.’

De Jonge said: ‘We want to prevent the situation where hospitals have to select patients at the door. Nobody wants that. That means we have to be prepared to take measures.’

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