SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Any changes in the current coronavirus measures will be confined to ‘small cautious steps’ even if a relaxation of the rules is an option, health minister Hugo de Jonge told reporters after Friday’s meeting with regional safety board chiefs.
While infection rates have been falling, the more contagious variant of coronavirus first identified in the UK is increasing and a third wave of infections is a certainty, he said.
‘The reality is, that very little is possible,’ he said. Ministers will meet at the prime minister’s official residence on Sunday to discuss the latest situation and will take to health experts from the Outbreak Management Team ahead of Tuesday’s press conference.
The current lockdown and the curfew are both due to expire on March 2, but prime minister Mark Rutte has already warned against too high expectations. A further 4,761 positive coronavirus tests were reported to public health institute RIVM in the 24 hours to Friday morning.
This is up 167 on Thursday’s total and 1,000 more than the average number of positive results over the past seven days. As yet it is unclear if the rise is due to the backlog caused by the wintry weather or if infection rates really are increasing again.
There was little movement in hospital admissions. In total, 1,943 coronavirus patients are being treated in hospital, and 510 of them are in intensive care wards. Schools Rutte and De Jonge said earlier their priority is to reopen secondary schools and on Friday 50 organisations, including Unicef and social work association Jeugdzorg Nederland, called on the government to do just that.
‘The seriousness of [the impact on pupils] does not appear to have gotten through to politicians,’ the organisations said. ‘The price they are paying is too high.’ The kids are alright, or are they?
Most secondary school pupils are having online lessons at home, although those in exam years are able to go to school.