There was a 500 per cent increase in new coronavirus cases in the Netherlands in the week to Tuesday and the reproduction rate or R number now stands at 2.17 and rising – its highest since the pandemic began.
Days after acting prime minister Mark Rutte apologised for relaxing restrictions too quickly, the head of the Centre for Infectious Disease Control, Dr Aura Timen, briefed MPs that the current wave was directly linked to the most recent easing on June 26th.
Two-fifths of recent infections, she said, could be traced to open spaces such as restaurants, bars and nightclubs. “Private homes have always been the number one source until now, but that has been overtaken by the catering sector.”
In the case of one "test for entry" event, a festival attended by about 20,000 people in Utrecht over the first weekend in July, roughly 1,000 festival-goers are now known to have picked up coronavirus there, with infections spread over both days. Utrecht's mayor, Sharon Dijksma, attended the event.
Epidemiologist Prof Olaf Dekkers of Leiden University observed: "A lot of people spent a long time close together in a small space. That's the way to spread the virus."
The caretaker government has already reimposed some restrictions. Discos and clubs have been closed again and restaurants and bars must close at midnight.
There’s growing pressure for masks to be reintroduced in busy locations, and for working from home to become the norm again.
Latest figures from the public health institute, RIVM, show that 7,888 new cases were recorded in the 24 hours to Tuesday morning, a decrease on Saturday when it broke the 10,000-a-day mark for the second time in the pandemic, with the biggest one-day increase since December 25th.
However, the statistics also show an increase of 500 per cent in the week to Tuesday, with 52,000 new cases compared with just 8,500 for the previous seven days.
Most of the positive tests were among 18-24 year olds. Of the total of 52,000 who tested positive, 84 per cent had not been vaccinated and 10 per cent had only a single dose. The remaining 6 per cent said they were fully vaccinated at the time of their positive tests.
Reflecting the increase on all fronts, the reproduction rate or R number, last calculated on June 28th, is at 2.17, though because it’s a lagging indicator it’s expected to be even higher in reality. According to the RIVM, 2.17 is the highest R number since the pandemic began.
Dr Timen told the MPs the relaxation of the rules had not alone “wiped out” some of the gains already made but had “exacerbated the emergence of the Delta strain”.