Better relaxed than lockdown: trend reversal in the Netherlands | free press

Amsterdam (AP) – People are sitting close together on the Amsterdam canals in the sun. Kisses as a greeting, hardly anyone keeps their distance, nobody wears a mask – at most they are in the trash. Crowds in shops, barbecues in parks. ‘Cosy’, as the Dutch like it.

Was there anything else? Oh yes, the Netherlands is a risk area. The number of infections here is about seven times higher than in neighboring Germany.

Many German holidaymakers can hardly believe their eyes. If they have not been vaccinated, they will be threatened with quarantine upon return. But in the Netherlands almost everything is the same. And all this with an incidence of well over 100. General: The word incidence is a strange word. If a German asks a Dutch person about this value, he can only expect the blank question: “What is that?”

Trend reversal despite freedoms

But now the trend reversal has arrived. The number of new infections in all regions has been falling drastically for more than two weeks. And all this without a lockdown. There are only a few rules: mask requirements on buses and trains, requirements for museums, theaters and cinemas, and other events.

And yet it managed to contain the virus. How is that possible?

The government emergency brake has worked. About four weeks ago, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his Minister of Health Hugo de Jonge stepped regretfully in front of the TV cameras and apologized. With the relaxation of almost all corona measures at the end of June, you would have made an “error of assessment”.

“Dancing with Janssen”

That was an understatement. For example, with the casual slogan ‘Dancing with Janssen’, Minister de Jonge emphatically encouraged young people to get vaccinated quickly: a dose of Janssen vaccine in the morning and to the party in the evening.

The mistake was serious. As soon as discotheques and clubs opened and there were festivals and student parties again, the number of infections exploded to 500 percent. In adolescents aged 18 to 24, even by 850 percent. The government pulled the emergency brake. The nightlife has stopped, all restaurants have to close by midnight, festivals are banned.

And that was the main reason for the trend reversal, RIVM analyzes. Most recently, 21,000 new infections were registered in a week, 44 percent less than in the week before with about 37,000. The number of Covid patients in hospitals is also stabilizing.

Virus in decline

The experts observe drastically fewer infections, especially in the age group of 18 to 24 years. And the youngsters were exactly the ones who had let go of all the reins after the clubs opened at the end of June. Clubs, discos and student parties were the source of the contamination almost 40 percent of the time. Now restaurants are only responsible for less than four percent of new infections.

The virus is declining, the RIVM experts conclude, even though 92 percent of the infections are delta variants. The reproduction number is now less than 0.7. This means that 100 people could theoretically infect 70.

The second reason for the downward trend is the vaccination campaign, which is going well. So far, 21.3 million doses of vaccine have been injected in the country of 17 million inhabitants. About two-thirds of adults are fully vaccinated and more than 85 percent have received at least one dose.

What’s next?

“These are positive figures in themselves,” said Prime Minister Rutte. And yet he doesn’t want to make everything clear yet. “Certainly compared to our neighboring countries, such as Germany, the number of positive tests is still far too high.” And then the Dutch have to go back from vacation. About ten percent of the infections are already caused by returnees. But unlike in Germany, the Dutch only need to be tested when they return from a high-risk country.

The cabinet wants to decide how to proceed on 13 August. Can bars and clubs reopen? And what about festivals or football matches? Prime Minister Rutte can no longer afford to make mistakes. More and more citizens want clarity. A majority now voted in favor of only cautious easing measures in a survey. And every third person even wants another mask requirement.

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