With visible reluctance, the outgoing cabinet accepts that hard intervention seems to be the only solution to get the latest corona wave under control. On Monday, Prime Minister Mark Rutte (VVD) hoped at a press conference at the end of next week, on Wednesday corona minister Hugo de Jonge (CDA) had to announce that he is asking the OMT for urgent advice and wants to decide on stricter measures on Friday. The question is whether the cabinet will avoid announcing a new lockdown.
De Jonge said on Wednesday that the turnaround that the cabinet wants to see in the corona figures has not been forthcoming for the time being. RIVM recorded a daily record of almost 24,000 positive tests in midweek. The new hospital admissions have also been stable for days, at around 300. De Jonge called the situation in care “gloomy and worrying”. He wants to know from the OMT how a turnaround in the figures can still be ‘forced’.
Minister De Jonge called the situation in healthcare ‘gloomy and worrying’
By bringing the decision-making forward, the cabinet is giving in to pressure from the hospitals, which have been warning for days that they may no longer be able to receive all patients if the infections do not decrease quickly. Diederik Gommers, chairman of the Dutch Association for Intensive Care, warned the House of Representatives on Tuesday that such a ‘code black’ scenario threatens within ten days. Gommers denounced the priorities of the MPs, who were discussing the possible introduction of a 2G law at the time. In it, the cabinet wants to arrange that only people who have been vaccinated and who have been cured from corona have access to certain places. An afterthought, Gommers thought. The debate was supposed to be about the need for “a heavy lockdown”.
Scaling down care
De Jonge has put the threat of code black into perspective in recent days. The hospitals first had to cancel more operations and expand the IC capacity even further, he thought. That is exactly what happened on Wednesday: the National Network Acute Care announced the next phase of scaling down, which means that the Netherlands is now only one step away from the crisis phase in which triage for ICU beds must take place.
De Jonge wants to protect healthcare, but says that the cabinet is faced with a life-size dilemma more than before during the crisis. “The stretch is completely gone in healthcare, but also in society.” He implicitly criticized Gommers’ comments and frequent media appearances on Wednesday by opposing “the ease with which lockdowns are ordered at talk show tables”.
In addition to concerns about support, there are other reasons for the cabinet not to decide too easily on a new lockdown. With such a step, the government would admit that the strategy followed to get out of the crisis had failed miserably. Vaccination has been promoted for months as the miracle cure, but the current vaccination rate of more than 85 percent does not appear to be enough to stop the virus spreading. The cabinet has also barely succeeded in convincing the group of vaccine doubters and rejecters.
The choice to relax on a large scale with the corona pass in September also turned out wrong. De Jonge presented this as a solution to keep sectors open safely and to prevent lockdowns. In recent weeks, the number of infections has been higher than at any point in the pandemic. As a result, support for the corona pass has dwindled in the House of Representatives and a majority for De Jonge’s 2G law is highly uncertain.
In its latest advice, the OMT already suggested it would recommend another lockdown if the numbers don’t improve. The OMT wrote that it wants to avoid measures in the schools because of “the damage to the development of children”. At the same time, closing schools is considered an epidemiologically very effective measure, which is why OMT member Gommers called it necessary. Many classes, especially in primary schools, are already sitting at home because of the explosion of infections among these unvaccinated students.
Also read:This article about even more scaling down in healthcare
A school closure is without doubt the most sensitive within the cabinet and in parliament. De Jonge made it clear on Wednesday that he also does not want to decide “lightly” about completely closing other sectors such as the catering industry, shops and culture. That almost certainly means closure during the lucrative holidays and beyond, as previous lockdowns have always lasted months, not weeks. Such a new, forced hibernation is hard for these sectors. It is nothing like learning to live with the virus as the cabinet had promised.
#lockdown #cabinet #admits #failure