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.
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.
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!