The Netherlands should be prepared to deal with a flare up in coronavirus in the coming months, even though the World Health Organisation has said the end of the pandemic is in sight, according to virologist Marion Koopmans.
Koopmans told Nu.nl in an interview that the virus will continue to cause problems. ‘The number of hospital admissions may be lower than in previous waves but there will be some,’ she said. ‘And in the winter, in particular, hospitals cannot deal with much more.’
Koopmans, a professor at the Erasmus teaching hospital in Rotterdam, said the Dutch healthcare system is not organized in a way as to provide plenty of reserve beds.
Some 400 people are currently being treated for coronavirus on an ordinary ward, while several dozen are in intensive care. At the height of the pandemic last year, over 1,000 people were in hospital with the virus.
The basic rules, such as staying home with symptoms, using self tests, good ventilation and being careful around people with vulnerable health remain crucial, she said.
‘Of course, everyone should be able to have fun… but the virus has not gone,’ she said. ‘And we have to take the fact we will have problems with infections in the autumn into account.’
As part of the preparations for winter, on Monday the government launched a new vaccination campaign.
Everyone over the age of 12 is now eligible for an extra dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, provided they have not had a booster jab or a coronavirus infection in the last three months.
Just over two-thirds of adults are classed as fully vaccinated, meaning they had the original two vaccines in 2021 and a booster shot last winter. However, according to research by I&O, around half of Dutch adults are not planning to take a booster vaccination against coronavirus this autumn.
Last week health minister Ernst Kuipers published the government’s strategy for tackling an anticipated autumn wave of infections, which stresses the importance of ‘keeping society open’ and treats protecting access to healthcare and ‘socio-economic continuity’ as equal priorities.
The minister published a list of 29 ‘ladders of measures’ covering a range of sectors including transport, retail, sports clubs and entertainment venues, detailing what steps should be taken based on a ‘thermometer’ indicating the level of infection.
Most measures, such as social distancing, testing and wearing face masks, will only be advisory unless the thermometer reaches the point when ‘interventions’ are needed. At the highest level the government can impose wide-ranging restrictions such as travel bans, home working and requiring proof of vaccination to enter venues.
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