SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – If government advisors say that the more infectious form of coronavirus first identified in Britain is not spreading more quickly amongst primary school children, then those schools will be able to reopen in the second week of February, prime minister Mark Rutte said on Friday.
Speaking to reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting, Rutte said that initial reports from the Outbreak Management Team were ‘not bad’. ‘We are going to look to see if it can be done,’ Rutte said.
‘We don’t yet know if the ‘British’ variant is spreading more amongst children.’ Rutte said he recognised how difficult it is for both children and parents trying to work and study in a small space.
‘I agree that schools should open if they can’, Rutte said. Finance minister Wopke Hoekstra told reporters earlier in the day that ‘something would have to go very wrong’ for that not to happen.
Rutte also repeated health minister Hugo de Jonge’s statement that the Netherlands will catch up on the backlog of vaccination systems in the coming weeks. However, the prime minister said, ‘my biggest fear is the availability of vaccines.’
Some countries are already slowing down their vaccination programmes because they are running out, he said.
Ministers will discuss the latest situation on Sunday, and government advisors will make their findings known to the cabinet on Tuesday morning, ahead of the planned press conference that evening.
However, insiders say the relaxation of other measures are unlikely, given that the decline in positive tests is slow. ‘We are going to try, and it will be complex, to give more perspective about what can be done, when the situation allows it,’ Rutte said.
‘But it is not black and white.’
Public health institute RIVM registered 4,438 positive coronavirus tests in the 24 hours to Friday morning, below the average of the past seven days. The seven-day average has been going down for the past week.
The number of people in hospital with coronavirus also continues to go down slightly, dropping to 2,231 on Friday, compared with 2,240 on Thursday. Of them, 659 are being treated in intensive care.
Meanwhile, regional health boards say that the IT system for tracing contacts and passing on coronavirus test results is undergoing a security upgrade and that is leading to delays.
‘Limiting access to the information is reducing the speed at which we can do our work,’ a spokesman told broadcaster NOS. This week, RTL reported that call centre workers have access to private information about millions of people registered in the GGD system, and that some have been selling details to third parties.