It was a fantastic two weeks – but with a high price tag. What looked like the old normal: full terraces, dancing until deep into the night, not keeping a distance after access tests, without mouth caps in public space, was settled by the new normal in a short time. That is one in which the corona virus is still spreading, so quickly that the cabinet feels compelled to intervene again. Two weeks after large-scale relaxation was announced, only the one and a half meters continued to apply and the mouth caps in public transport, part of this has been tightened again. Catering establishments must close from midnight, discotheques and nightclubs are not allowed to open at all for the time being. Multi-day events are also prohibited. At day events, for example in the theater and at sports competitions, everyone must have a seat and keep one and a half meters away.
Also read: Testing to party wasn’t such a good plan after all
Was it relaxed too quickly two weeks ago? No, according to outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte (VVD) and outgoing Minister of Health Hugo de Jonge (CDA). That the relaxations from then would lead to a higher number of infections was “calculated in”, said outgoing minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health, CDA) this Friday in an extra press conference. But that high and that fast? The RIVM models had not calculated that.
This week, the number of positive tests rose to seven thousand this Friday. That is more than fifteen hundred more than the day before. A sevenfold increase from a week ago. These are figures that were last tapped at the beginning of May. The reproduction number, which indicates how many people can infect someone who has corona, grew from 0.97 to 1.37.
That number dates from June 24 and is now probably a lot higher, due to the increased number of infections since then.
Not ready for reflection
Broadly speaking, the situation is reminiscent of the summer of a year ago: even then the cabinet announced major relaxations before the summer recess because the figures would allow it, a few weeks later it was surprised by high contamination figures and had to intervene considerably. But this Friday, Rutte and De Jonge did not want to talk about reflection. Rutte called the initial relaxation at the end of last month, which was decided when the Delta variant was already taking hold, “logical” and “sensible”. He called it “advanced insight” that it has now been decided to tighten up some measures again.
See here how is vaccination going in the Netherlands.
Three weeks ago, in what was supposed to be the last press conference before the summer recess, Rutte and De Jonge’s message was still downright optimistic. The numbers were so low at the time that they moved easing measures planned for later in the summer to the front of the roadmap. “How many times have we not been here to tell you what was not possible?”, Rutte had said at the time. “Fortunately, we are now back in the phase where the emphasis is on what is possible.” De Jonge had predicted “a very nice summer”.
The summer recess will officially start in The Hague next week, although the House of Representatives is expected to debate with De Jonge and Rutte next week. The tightening measures announced on Friday will expire on August 13. A press conference is expected to be held a day later in which next steps will be announced.
It cannot be ruled out that new tightening up will be necessary in the meantime. In the words of De Jonge: “No one will be able to tell you with certainty where we will be in a month’s time. No one.”
A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad on 10 July 2021
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of July 10, 2021