SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A further 2,999 positive coronavirus tests were reported to the public health institute RIVM in the 24 hours to Sunday morning, ahead of new measures being introduced in a further eight regions where the infection rate has reached alarming levels.
From 6pm on Sunday, bars and cafes in Groningen, in Flevoland, in parts of Brabant covering Den Bosch and in Hilversum and Nijmegen, will have to close their doors at midnight and customer numbers will be limited to 50.
Other, more local measures are also being introduced. And with infections continuing to rise in the big cities, a second round of measures is now on the cards for Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, which lead the list of infection hot spots.
In Amsterdam, for example, there were 464 positive tests reported to the RIVM overnight and the number of positive cases has risen by 57% in the past week. Earlier cafe closures and further restrictions on guest numbers are among the measures being considered, sources suggest.
Employers organisations have now urged their members to be more vigorous in keeping to the coronavirus rules to head off a new lockdown. ‘A second lockdown looms, with all the draconian consequences for companies, workers and the economy that that entails,’ the VNO-NCW and MKB Nederland said in a joint statement.
‘And because we have noticed people are becoming more complacent, we would urge everyone to once again give visible attention to adhering to the protocols.’ Last week DutchNews reported that supermarket association CBL had no plans to ask its members to step up hygiene measures, despite the rise in positive tests.
Experts are warning that if more action is not taken, the Netherlands will be back to where it was in March and April, at the height of the pandemic. In total, 617 coronavirus patients are currently being treated in hospital, of whom 127 are in intensive care.
‘On average, one in 134 infections lead to an admission to intensive care three weeks later,’ Sjaak de Gouw, head of the regional health board association is quoted as saying by Nu.nl. ‘Give the exponential growth in the number of positive coronavirus tests – the total is doubling every eight days – that is when the healthcare system will be overwhelmed.’
And while youngsters, who usually have few symptoms, account for the bulk of the new infections, this is giving rise to a false sense of security because they, in turn, will infect the older generations, Aura Timen, from the RIVM’s infectious diseases department told Nu.nl.
The effect of the current measures will only be visible in two weeks, she said. Other experts point out that many infections remained under the radar in the early months of the crisis because testing was only open to a few groups.