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update

Update 20-01

(Updated with Curfew information on 22-01)

Hey everyone,

A mid-day press conference shows some of the urgency of what is going to be announced. So, here we go.

To prevent a third wave of Covid, we have to act now. Even though we are all Covid-tired and absolutely done with the virus, the virus is not done with us. It is difficult for everyone, and the entire thing takes a big mental toll on all of us.

So, how do we move forward at this point?
Infections in the Netherlands are decreasing, but additional measures are now announced. Why is this?
There is a real risk of a third wave coming. This is, in large, due to the more contagious ‘British’ strain of Covid. ‘Old’ Covid is on its return, with R below 1. That means the number of infections is decreasing, and that’s a good thing.
The ‘British’ strain however currently has a reproduction rate R of 1,3. Currently, it is estimated that around 10% of the total infections in the Netherlands are this strain. It is expected this will go up to 50% of all infections in February and even 90 to 100% of all Covid cases in March. This ‘British’ strain of Covid is growing exponentially, and as it is more contagious it will eventually be the dominant cause of infections. The same applies to the ‘South-African’ and ‘Brazilian’ strains of Covid. Even though these strains are not more dangerous and won’t get people more sick, they will get more people sick.

In order to minimise pressure on the healthcare system and to try to prevent a third wave, or otherwise at least to be ready for one, new measures will take effect.

Split out into three categories: Curfew, not-travel, and travel:

Curfew

(Updated on 21-01)
First of all the most discussed measure. The curfew. After a long debate in parliament, a majority of seats did agree with a curfew, effective between 21.00h and 04.30h (9pm-4.30am). This will go into effect as of this Saturday (January 23rd).

This curfew means that after 21.00h:

  • It is forbidden to be outside on public roads
  • This applies to everyone, everywhere.
  • It will be enforced by police and municipal agents (so-called boa’s)
    There are some exceptions:
  • Walking your dog is still possible, as long as it is on a leash. You’re expected not to loan out your dog to others but to just behave responsibly. Give the dog and yourself a good night of sleep.
  • If you have to work. For this, you need a form filled out by your employer.
  • If you have an exam on location in the evening. For this, some sort of form will become available.
  • If you are a provider of informal care (‘mantelzorg’ in Dutch) for someone. For this, you will also need a form.
  • If you are on public transport on your way to an airport/leaving the country, or coming in from abroad. Again, form required.
  • For sudden urgent care or urgent circumstances, additional provisions apply. If for some reason you’re in need of an ambulance, first aid help, or a fire has struck your home, getting help and standing outside of course remains possible.

This curfew also means that food pickups, supermarkets, and other places that still are open will close down before 21.00h (9pm). No exceptions.
Food deliveries are however still possible, but only if the deliverer has a work declaration from their employer.

Some general concerns you may have:

  • If you’re still on the street like one minute after curfew, there’s a few minutes grace period. Don’t live on the edge in this regard though, as not everyone might be as lenient in this.
  • If you are on the street without a form, you can be fined, but this will not be registered as criminal offence.
  • If you falsify the employers declaration, this will be regarded as forgery, and will see consequences as such. That means a criminal offence, and potentially high fines or even (if large-scale fraud) prison time.
    Not having such a form on you may result in a €95 fine. Falsifying either form is a criminal offence, and will be fined higher and go on your criminal record.

More detailed information is available on the curfew page.

Other measures

Effective immediately, you are only supposed to have one visitor per day over. Reversely, you also should not visit more than one location/household per day.

As of Monday the 25th, funerals are limited to 50 attendees.

All of these measures apply until February 9th.

Travel

All travel matters will soon be updated at dutchcovidnews.nl/travel-faq. If you cannot find the information there, please feel free to get in touch with me!

Flight ban
As of this Saturday, there is a flight ban for travelers coming in from South Africa, the United Kingdom, and all South American countries. The only exceptions to this rule are incoming freight, necessary medical travels, and returning Dutch citizens stuck in one of these countries due to Covid restrictions but wanting to go home.

Travelers from outside the EU without EU citizenship
In the formal recommendation that was passed from the Outbreak Management Team to the Cabinet, it states that entry to the Netherlands for “students (temporary studies), knowledge-migrants (temporary stay), business travelers, professionals in the cultural and creative sector, and people under the provision of long term long distance relations” will no longer be possible.

It does not specifically say anything about students or workers who have a residency permit to the Netherlands. If you’re here for a full bachelor’s or master’s programme, however, you are regarded as a temporary migrant, according to IND rules. If you work in the Netherlands on a non-temporary employment contract and have a residence permit, this would mean it is still possible to enter the Netherlands. This won’t apply to most student jobs.

Again, it is not yet entirely clear whether this applies to international students with a residence permit, but it sure looks like it does, unfortunately.

Additionally, it seems as if KLM will cancel (virtually) all long-distance flights as of Saturday. If you have a KLM flight scheduled next week, they will probably get in touch with you soon – but they’re also figuring things out on the go.

The Netherlands now sees the strictest travel restrictions of the entire EU. That means that while direct flights to the Netherlands are perhaps no longer possible, you can still make it to the Netherlands, just via other countries. Make sure to get a rapid test before boarding an aircraft headed to the Netherlands. More on that below.

Further travel restrictions
When flying in from EU and Schengen countries, the Netherlands now requires two negative Covid tests. In addition to the already required negative PCR test, a negative (antigen) rapid test of a maximum of four hours old will also be necessary to board airplanes headed for the Netherlands. The double test will be mandatory as of midnight between Friday and Saturday. Obtaining either test result is a responsibility for the traveler themselves. Businesstraveller.com has a (non-exhaustive) list of airports that offer rapid tests on the airport.

Ferries from the UK to the Netherlands are all canceled as of Saturday.

International trains and buses still have the PCR requirement. This applies to IC Berlin, ICE Frankfurt/Basel, Thalys, Eurostar, IC Brussel and Flixbus, not on local trains and busses. At this moment, there is no need for an additional rapid test – but this might change.

Cross-border travel by car is still possible and faces no restrictions at this moment. That might however also change.

Upon arrival in the Netherlands
Some personal information will be registered when traveling to the Netherlands. The mandatory ten days of quarantine upon arrival are still required, but will now be checked. Violating your quarantine will result in a €95 fine.
After five days of quarantine, one will be able to get tested. If this test is negative, you will no longer have to quarantine anymore. Details on this policy will also follow later.

Travel restrictions apply to all countries, except the explicitly mentioned safe countries.

Somewhat more positive matters

Now back to somewhat more positive matters.
Over the next few weeks, testing capacity will again increase and large-scale testing will start, also for people not having symptoms. This includes some small-scale ‘field labs’, aimed at researching how to re-open physical education, as well as venues such as theatres and football stadiums for audiences. Hopefully, we will see the first of such tests sometime in mid-February.

For the longer term, the only way out is vaccination. The Netherlands currently has over 100.000 people vaccinated, virtually all of them long-term healthcare workers. The elderly and others living in long-term health care institutions are now also being vaccinated. The more vulnerable people are vaccinated, the lower pressure on the general and urgent healthcare becomes.
All vaccines that are currently stored in depots are scheduled to be put in someone’s arm already. To speed up vaccination, the second shot will now come in the fifth or sixth week after the initial shot. This increases capacity now and over time more vaccines will become available making this possible. Additionally, more efficient needles have made it possible to get six shots out of one flacon of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine rather than the five shots originally intended. This increases the number of people that can be vaccinated.

Currently, the expectation is that by spring, so mid-march, all vulnerable people in healthcare institutions, plus most elderly living at home will be vaccinated. This should make things possible for everyone else. Don’t expect all measures to suddenly go. At least until summer, there will be restrictions. But based on decreased pressure on hospitals and increased vaccination for vulnerable, more things will become possible over time.

The current lockdown, and the curfew we’re facing are tough on people and we do get lonely. Don’t forget to get in touch with others, call, video call, or help each other. Things that might be effortless for you may mean a lot to others. Do all this with the Covid measures in mind though!

Most people stick to all measures, but I want to urge you to critically reflect on your own behavior for a bit. I’m no saint in that either, but I do truly limit my social interactions with people. I really genuinely hope you do too, however hard that may be.

That is all for now. As always, if there’s any questions you know where to find me!

Categories
update

Update 12-01

Hey everyone,

The lockdown has been extended for three weeks. That is until February 9th. As the infection rate does not decrease rapidly enough, and the potential danger of the British strain of Covid, make for a cautious situation. Currently, the R-rate is estimated to be just below 1, meaning the virus does no longer sees exponential growth. The just-announced extension of the lockdown however is necessary, amongst other things because of the British strain of Covid. More on that below.
Extending the lockdown even longer is possible, should the infection rate not go down any further. If the situation remains stable or improves however, the next press conference will be held on February 2nd.

On the Dutch economy
As this extension will undoubtedly have significant financial consequences, there will be broader economic compensation. This is important for both the nation’s economy and for liveable and nice cities. Without a city heart, places lose much of their appeal to live there, and preventing this will be of top priority. The relevant ministers (finance, work and sociale zaken) are working on this and will come with an update on this sometime in the next couple of days. I will not give an extensive update on this, but please do feel free to ask if you worry about this.

On education
The exceptions for educations will remain as currently are. In the next four weeks, education will be limited as currently is: only for vulnerable students and practical education. Primary schools may however reopen earlier, depending on whether the British strain of Covid influences the infection rates amongst children. If this strain has no significant effect on children’s infection rates, primary education and children’s daycare may resume. Don’t assume this will be happening however, no risks will be taken in this regard. It will only be possible if research in the Rotterdam area shows this is not the case.
Once high schools can reopen, there will be a renewed focus on maintaining the 1,5m distance at high schools. More on this will follow when schools may reopen.

On the possible curfew
A difficult topic remains the curfew. It is a far-reaching measure, nobody wants. It is however seen as an effective way of limiting visits at home, in particular amongst youth and students. The balance for a curfew is between doing the most we can, but not overshooting support and possible restrictions. Early next week, there will be an additional recommendation from the OMT regarding curfews. There is a need to target youth and students, additional to the current lockdown. Again, a curfew is the last measure that nobody wants. Whether this will be a curfew or some other sort of measure that is more specific or targeted is currently ”purely speculation” (Mark Rutte). I, unfortunately, can’t provide any more information on this but will of course update you as soon as there is an update.

On travel
Don’t. Go. Abroad. Only travel abroad if there’s an urgent family situation. Until April, assume you’ll be in the Netherlands. Yes, that is disappointing. International travel however currently is one of the main causes of spread of the British strain of Covid. More details on the British strain below, first a bit more about travel: “If you think you’re fine to travel, that is incredibly antisocial. Remind others of this and discourage them to go abroad.”
If you travel to the Netherlands, there will be a relaxation of the policies on self-quarantining at the end of January. Starting January 20th, people coming in from abroad will be able to get tested at the GGD after five days of self-isolation. If the test result then comes back negatively (so no Covid), you no longer have to self isolate after that (typically some 24 hours after getting tested). The travel rules and documentation have not yet been updated on the government website, so I am not sure yet what it will look like exactly. This will be updated as soon as more information is available.

On the current situations in hospitals
The current lockdown works, but infection rates remain high and decrease only slowly. We’re still at dangerously high levels. The pressure on hospitals is decreasing, but remains high. Hospitals still have scaled down most of their operations, and focus on the urgent care. As long as this is the case, we’re far from reopening of society. More on that below.

Now, about the British strain of Covid.
Due to the higher R-rate, this is a significant danger, that would undo much of the current (somewhat positive) situation. We have to be prepared for this more infectious strain, to prevent it from taking over the country, as the original virus did in March. In order to prevent situations as in the UK and Ireland, where ambulances now are queuing in front of hospitals, it is crucial to extend the lockdown.

On feeling sick and having tested positive
If you feel sick, please be aware of your responsibilities! Stay home and get tested. Test capacity has ramped up to some 100.000 tests per day. Only half of this is used. At virtually all test locations (375+ in the entire country), you now get your results within 24 hours from testing. Even though it is annoying, it is your responsibility to prevent a further spread of the virus.
About a quarter of people who did get tested and got a positive result still go out and about. Don’t be this person. Pretty please. Stay at home. Make sure your housemates do the same. Ask around for someone to help you. The Red Cross is even here for help, so please do ask. If you’re not sure how or where to do this, please ask me! I won’t be able to help you myself, but I can point you in the right direction!

Specific municipalities and later on also high schools with high infection rates will start general testing for everyone. This in order to prevent further outbreaks in and spread from those places.

To increase your positive impact, please consider downloading the coronamelder app (coronamelder.nl). This app notifies you if you’ve been in touch with a potentially contagious person, and allows you to then get tested, even if you don’t have any symptoms then just yet. If you get a notification in the app, please make sure you self isolate and get tested ASAP!

Looking forward to more positive things:

As vaccinations have started, there’s a bit of a positive outlook, finally. But we have to do it together, and have to get there, together. Both Mark Rutte and I want to urge you to support each other where possible, and to be on the lookout for others.

In terms of perspective for reopening society: the ICU units will be leading. Currently, there’s around 35-40 new admittances per day. Only when that is down below ten, we can think of broader re-openings, when it’s down to three life can get back to normal-ish. This makes re-opening something that’s currently simply not a topic of discussion whatsoever.

Almost 45.000 people have now been vaccinated, and another 150.000 vaccinations have already been scheduled to take place in the next week-and-a-bit. As of Monday, vaccinations in elderly homes will start. A week later, on the 25th, small-scale care institutions will start getting vaccinated. In general, it is expected to have all vulnerable in our society and their caretakers vaccinated before April. In summer, all 60+ and people with underlying conditions will be vaccinated, and by fall everyone should be vaccinated.

That is all for now. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Categories
update

Update 06-01

Hey everybody!

First of all, I want to wish you a happy new year. Let’s look forward to a better and healthier new year, a year of possibilities rather than restrictions.

Now, on to the update about the current Covid-situation in the Netherlands. Although the Dutch headlines today are full of positive vaccination news, I briefly want to start of with something else first.

As some of the students amongst you have recently returned to the Netherlands after the Christmas break (or will return soon now), please do keep in mind the ten days of self-isolation requirement! I’ve experienced myself how annoying and difficult this might be, but strongly urge you to get through this annoying week-and-a-half. As we are all in lockdown and schools are closed, just stay at home.

So, the main headlines in the Dutch news today:
This morning, the first people in the Netherlands have been vaccinated in the Brabant region! It’s an exciting start, but only a beginning. With capacity ramping up, around 66.000 staff of elderly homes will be able to get vaccinated weekly as of January 18th. This happens in a total of 25 locations throughout the entire country. Additionally, hospital vaccinations for crucial staff are also taking off today.

Here is what can be expected of vaccinations from now on (roughly and subject to change and approval and availability of the vaccine):
As of January, healthcare workers in elderly homes, and crucial health staff/hospital staff will get vaccinated. Some elderly and disabled living in institutions will also get vaccinated in January.
As of February, the main focus will be on the elderly and disabled living in institutions. Additionally, all people with an underlying serious health condition will be able to get vaccinated.
As of March, the elderly who live at home will be able to get vaccinated.
As of April, other hospital staff will get their vaccines.
As of May, the vaccine will be available broadly to everyone living in the Netherlands.
(overview based on governmental roadmap ‘vaccination strategy‘ in Dutch (document direct download))

As May comes closer by, more information will become available. If you fall into one of the categories that get vaccinated earlier, you will most likely be informed by either your employer or GP.

The expectation is to have vaccinations finished sometime between July and October this year. A lot is also depending on the approval, deliveries, and availability of the different vaccines however. It’s a marathon and we’ve only just started.

At this point, close to 75% of the Netherlands feels positive about the vaccines and is willing to get vaccinated. Amongst healthcare workers, this rate is even higher at around 80%.

Some countries that have started vaccinations earlier on have started reporting how many people have received a vaccine by now. An overview of that can be found at ourworldindata.org (note that it only reports doses, not people vaccinated as every person likely requires two shots.) Averaged out in all countries European but the UK and Iceland, the vaccination rate is still rather low, but the process has started!

The EMA just (06-01, 13.18h) approved the Moderna vaccine. After approval from the European Commission (EC), a formality that will happen in the following days, this vaccine will mostly be used to vaccinate some 223.000 people living in elderly homes and other long-term healthcare institutions. As this vaccine does not have to be stored at -70°C, it can be relatively easily used ‘on location’ rather than in vaccination centers. As the ordered quantities for this vaccine are relatively low, this does not mean a major shift in the aforementioned vaccination roadmap.

Lastly on vaccinations: despite firm criticism in parliament about the process so far yesterday, there is broad support for the plans forward from now on. Both Mark Rutte and Hugo de Jonge, respectively Prime Minister and minister of healthcare have admitted their mistakes, and admitted they have to take a more flexible stand that better reflects the reality.

That’s it for vaccines, here are some more updates, unfortunately somewhat less positive:

It is not unlikely that the lockdown in the Netherlands will continue for a longer time. As the infection rate R has reportedly not yet dropped below 1, the risk of a new wave of infections is still very real. The government will make a decision about this at the end of this week, and a press conference will be held next Tuesday.

Although fewer test results come back positive now, the lockdown hasn’t produced a ‘significant effect’ in infection rates. Although there is a slight decrease of people getting tested and positive tests, this could very well be due to the Christmas break rather than a substantial positive change, unfortunately. It is expected that last week, some 172.000 people in the Netherlands were Covid-contagious.

So, when will infection rates really decrease and when can we slowly return to normalcy? It is expected that once 40% of the country has been vaccinated, the effects of vaccination will be visible in nation-wide infection rates, but it will take quite some time until we make it there. As soon as the weakest in our society are protected however, that should make a significant difference in what is possible for everybody else. I can unfortunately not give a specific date for that, so we will have to wait and see.
That is all for now.

I want to kindly ask you to stay at home as much as possible and to not have more than two guests over, to wear your facemask, to keep washing your hands, and to stick to that 1,5m distance to others. Behave responsibly, and stay strong for a while longer. Stay strong and stay safe.

If any questions, please feel free to get in touch with me!

(PS. if you feel like more people could benefit from these updates, please refer them to this website, or let them join one of the WhatsApp news groups)