Tomorrow the Cabinet will decide how to further tackle the Corona pandemic. ‘Everything is on the table’. But isn’t it too early to judge whether relaxation is possible or not?
The amount of positive corona tests is steadily decreasing, but it is not so low yet at 103 per 100,000 population. The number of corona patients in Dutch hospitals is stabilizing, but there are still quite a few. On Wednesday there were 472 patients in nursing wards and 199 in intensive care units.
The R number, which indicates the number of people a contagious person transmits the virus to, was 0.79 on July 26 and is rising, as is the percentage of positive tests.
So far, a total of 21.8 million rounds have been captured. An estimated 71 percent of people over the age of 18 have received two vaccines and 85 percent have had at least one injection. Among the 12-17 year olds, 43 percent got their first shot. This is only possible since 2 July.
Epidemiologists and some other scientists believe it is too early to decide on mitigation measures now. “Schools and universities are closed,” says Gowri Gopalakrishna, professor of public health and epidemiology at VUmc.
“There are far fewer people working because of the holidays. So there is less commuting and that means less transmission of viruses. These are all factors that play a role in the lower numbers now. But soon the holidays will be over and what will it look like? Like then?”
Kristina Vandenbroek-Grulls, professor emeritus of microbiology at VUmc, agrees with Gopalakrishna: “You shouldn’t be making mid-vacation decisions about relaxing. That makes sense to me. Those holidays affect the numbers. The opposite. You don’t know.”
Gopalakrishna is a member of the Red Team which is providing needed and unsolicited advice to the Cabinet on Corona policy. “If the government shows the risks this fall are low and is transparent about the data they are based on, I am not against easing. Because I understand the need for it. But if you can’t do that, then I say do no. Vaccination coverage is still not enough and it’s a holiday.”
Field epidemiologist and Red Team member Amrish Bedjo thinks it’s too soon to tell if relaxation is possible. “The vaccination rate, especially much lower in certain neighborhoods, is the most important indicator. It has to be groundbreaking.”
Baidjoe believes more needs to be done than just sending out invitations. “You have to try to get everyone to get vaccinated, even in the most difficult neighborhoods. You should first raise the vaccination rate there before thinking about relaxation.”
And he understands that, in any case, there is still a large group of more than ten percent who refuse to vaccinate. “Some people are exposed to misinformation 24 hours a day, and you really have to put in the extra effort,” he says.
LUMC Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology Jan Vandenbroucke also doesn’t think this is the right time to discuss changes in coronavirus policy. “It’s weird to make such decisions in the middle of the holidays,” he says.
“I also wonder what can be calmed down,” Vandenbroek says. “There are no other measures left. We are leading the way in Europe with ease.” “This virus has already given us so many surprises that I won’t make decisions about mitigation too quickly based on the current numbers. It must first last well for longer.”
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