CORONAVIRUSAfter the June relaxations, the number of corona infections has exploded. Nationally, the reproduction number is above two, a record since March last year. The number of hospital admissions may also increase, in the worst case up to 600 occupied ICU beds. The boom in infections was unpredictable, according to the RIVM.
13 Jul. 2021
“We have large margins of uncertainty,” said Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health (CDA) in a debate with the Senate this morning. “The infection rates are astronomically high. We had not anticipated such a rapid increase. Now we have to look at how the infections progress through the generations, and we do expect hospitalizations to increase slightly.”
RIVM expert Aura Timen reported in a round of questions in the House of Representatives that the reproduction number of the coronavirus is above two, it has not been this high since the first month of the corona outbreak.
Especially in the age group 18 to 24, the number of infections exploded last week, with an increase of almost 900 (!) percent compared to the previous period. “The number of infections has increased sixfold,” said Timen. The number of infections is increasing in all age categories, although the increases are modest among the elderly and sharp among the young. For example, the corona map of the Netherlands changes color completely in just two weeks: many regions of the safe green and yellow zones are now orange and even red. The curves are shooting up in Groningen, Amsterdam and Utrecht in particular.
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RIVM has so far measured 137 clusters of ten or more infections, in which there are also fires with ‘more than hundreds of cases’. “By far the most clusters are in the hospitality industry, festivals, student associations,” said Timen. For example, there was a two-day festival with ten thousand visitors and ‘several hundreds of infections’.
The increase in the Netherlands is also much greater than in neighboring countries. “Belgium and Germany have not relaxed their nightlife. Then you see with us the explosive increase with young adults who came together after the relaxation, at the same time as the strong advance of the delta variant.”
According to the RIVM, no epidemiological model could capture this concurrence of circumstances. “You cannot predict this explosive growth.” For example, the Netherlands has literally done what Prime Minister Rutte called for in the spring, although he meant something else when he said that we ‘have it in our hands to beat (the models of) Jaap van Dissel’.
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In nursing homes, the picture is still ‘calm’, says Timen. “Only one percent of all locations are infected.”
RIVM does not know whether the boom in infections at superspread events will also lead to a significant increase in the number of corona patients in hospitals. Because many (young) adults have been or are being vaccinated and relaxations in nightlife have partly been reversed, the modellers calculate with a ‘lower limit’ of 150 corona patients in the ICU (there are now 84) and an upper limit of 600 occupied beds. “But it is surrounded by uncertainties, these are the extremes that we outline.”
Vaccination effect can be seen
“We see that vaccinated people have a small risk of getting infected, compared to the partially and unvaccinated,” said Timen. “Of the twenty-somethings who tested positive, only one percent are fully vaccinated, and two percent are partially vaccinated.” Incidentally, a third of the infected persons lack insight into the vaccination status.
De Jonge repeated his apologies from yesterday in the debate in the Ridderzaal, when he and outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte acknowledged that the June relaxations were ‘an error of judgment’. “We underestimated the overtaking behaviour. Not only among young people, everyone will recognize that that one and a half meters is really not observed everywhere. And the entrance testing was too big a jump, it was too early. Checks at the gate were not always sharp, the validity period of a negative test was somewhat long, and a small percentage of false negative tests can quickly lead to spreading at such large parties. All those factors led to the increase.”
De Jonge wants to ask himself whether he and colleagues have missed ‘red signals’. “What have we overlooked? Were we sufficiently open to all signals?” Tomorrow the House of Representatives will debate the lockdown lock on nightlife.
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