SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch coronavirus lockdown is ‘almost certainly’ to be extended by three weeks, sources in The Hague have told broadcaster NOS.
Ministers met at prime minister Mark Rutte’s official residence on Sunday to discuss the latest situation with key advisors, including public health chief Jaap van Dissel. The government announced in mid-December that schools and non-essential shops would close until the third week in January.
However, because infection rates are still high, a number of experts have gone public in recent days calling for an extension of the lockdown. On Sunday, for example, Menno de Jong, a virologist and member of the government’s Outbreak Management Team, told Amsterdam broadcaster AT5 the lockdown should be extended until at least the end of the month.
‘If the slight drop [in new infections] does not continue and the English mutation gets the upper hand, then we are more likely to see stricter measures,’ he said. Rutte refused to be drawn on the issue at his regular press conference on Friday, but he and health minister Hugo de Jonge are due to hold a televised press conference on Tuesday.
‘The infection rates are still too high and that means people still have too many contacts,’ Rutte said at the Friday meeting. The sources told NOS that the financial support package will be adapted to cope with companies who are hard hit by the lockdown extension.
The plans will be finalised in the coming two days, NOS said. RTL said its sources suggest that the lockdown will be at least three weeks longer but that there will not be any new measures announced on Tuesday.
The RIVM received 6,657 reports of new positive tests in the 24 hours to Sunday morning, down 708 on Saturday’s total and below the weekly average. The number of hospital patients also continued to decline, although slightly more people are being treated in intensive care units.
Nevertheless, fewer people were admitted to hospital in total – 187 compared with 241 on Saturday. On Saturday, the public health institute RIVM said the South African variant of coronavirus had been identified in a patient in Brabant. It is not yet clear where the patient picked up the virus, but he or she were first tested on December 22.