New curfew ‘unlikely’ in the Netherlands despite sharp rise in Covid cases

The country’s hospitals and intensive care wards are once again under pressure

 Part of the Amsterdam Dance Event  at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on  October 16th, 2021. Social distancing measures were abandoned in  the country three weeks ago. Photograph:  EPA/Ramon Van Flymen

Part of the Amsterdam Dance Event at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on October 16th, 2021. Social distancing measures were abandoned in the country three weeks ago. Photograph: EPA/Ramon Van Flymen

 

A new overnight curfew is “unlikely” to be imposed in the Netherlands this winter despite a sharp rise in coronavirus cases – just three weeks after social distancing measures were abandoned.

That reassurance came on Wednesday from Prof Jaap van Dissel, a leading virologist and head of the government’s Covid-19 outbreak management team, despite the latest figures, which show a 44 per cent increase in new cases over the past week to Tuesday.

All the key indicators are heading in substantially the wrong direction as Europe’s most densely inhabited country, with a population of 17.5 million, finds its hospitals and intensive care wards once again under pressure.

According to the figures from the public health institute RIVM, the number of new infections in the week to Tuesday was 25,751, the highest since the end of July – with a consistent upward trend since September 25th when restrictions were lifted.

In parallel, there were 48 deaths in the week to Tuesday – twice the number of the previous week.

The R number, which measures the rate at which the virus is reproducing stands at 1.2 compared to 0.96 on October 6th, reflecting the rapid resurgence of the virus.

Hospitals are under substantial pressure again, with several already cancelling or limiting elective surgery, particularly those in regions were the vaccination rate is low.

“Most of those in hospital with Covid-19 have not been vaccinated,” said the RIVM. “In intensive care units this averages four out of five patients.”

Latest surge

The statistics show the latest surge is visible across all regions of the country and all age groups, though it is concentrated among the under-50s, who have the lowest vaccination rate.

Based on this evidence experts are now trying to establish whether they are dealing with a new “wave” sweeping the country or a “series of hotspots” around areas of low vaccination, such as the Bible Belt among others.

The Dutch have had only a caretaker government since January, but acting prime minister Mark Rutte and his health minister, Hugo de Jonge have scheduled a public briefing for November 5th, when the picture may be clearer.

Prof Van Dissel said a reprise of the overnight coronavirus curfew that led to widespread rioting last year was unlikely because, with 81 per cent of over-12s fully vaccinated, the virus was “less damaging”.

“Yes, hospital admissions are mounting,” he said, “but the relationship between infections and hospitalisation is different because of the high vaccination rate. We’ll look at everything again at the end of this month, ahead of new decisions in early November.”

A coronavirus pass QR code introduced on the day social distancing ended has been widely ignored by restaurants and bars.