Soualiga Newsday Features

Soualiga Newsday Features (3034)

Some 75% of hospital coronavirus patients are not vaccinated: RIVM

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Just 17% of patients ending up in hospital intensive care units with coronavirus in September were fully vaccinated, the public health institute RIVM says in a new report.

At the same time, 25% of hospital admissions were down to people who had been vaccinated, the RIVM said. The report focuses on 1369 people who were admitted to hospital in September and up to October 4, and whose vaccination status was known at the time.

The figures means the ‘likelihood of ending up in an IC ward is 33 times lower for someone who has been fully vaccinated than people who have not had their jabs,’ the RIVM said.

Some 80% of the Dutch population over the age of 12 is now fully vaccinated and the figures show that vaccination has a very major impact on the likelihood of becoming seriously ill with the virus.

In total, vaccination reduces the risk of being admitted to hospital by 95% and an IC admission by 97%. ‘Despite full vaccination, people may still… test positive for COVID-19, and some will be admitted to hospital,’ the RIVM said.

Older people (and vulnerable people) are more likely to be hospitalised.

Family members

The RIVM has also published other research which shows coronavirus vaccines also protect against transmission of the Delta variant of the virus. The research covers August and September, by which time the Delta variant was dominant in the Netherlands and is based on contact tracing data.

The research shows that fully vaccinated people who do become infected are 63% less likely to transmit the virus to unvaccinated housemates than infected people who have not been vaccinated.

At the same time, the effectiveness of full vaccination against transmission to fully vaccinated household contacts was 40%, on top of the direct protection which vaccination offers against infection.

The researchers said earlier that vaccines are 73% effective at stopping transmission of the Alpha variant to unvaccinated household contacts.



Government to slash energy taxes to offset soaring gas prices

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The cabinet is cutting energy taxes by an average of €400 per household per year, to compensate for the sharp rise in energy bills, ministers decided at Friday’s cabinet meeting.

In addition, some €150m is being set aside to boost home insulation. The money will be distributed by local authorities in the form of vouchers which people can use to buy draught excluders and install smart energy meters.

A further €500m will be used to compensate small firms in the form of lower energy taxes. In total, the measures will cost some €3.2bn. The tax cuts will come in on January 1 and run for one year.

The rise in gas prizes had threatened to put up some household bills by up to €50 a month. Between 8% and 10% of Dutch households have an energy contract which will expire in the next three months and a further 44% have a flexible contract, which means their payment rises and falls in line with energy prices – usually twice a year, in January and July.

The rest pay a fixed monthly fee which has been fixed in advance for between one and three years. Around half a Dutch energy bill is made up of government levies – a basic energy tax, a tax to boost sustainable energy production and value added tax.

Transport costs also account for a large proportion of the total bill. The government has been steadily increasing energy taxes, particularly on gas, to stimulate consumers to cut back and make their homes more energy efficient.



KPMG criticises Dutch coronavirus strategy, intervention was often too late

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Some 18 months after the start of the crisis, accountancy group KPMG has published a critical report on the Dutch approach to tackling coronavirus.

The report, based on both a literature review and worldwide data, concludes that more people died in the Netherlands because policy was made on the basis of hospital admissions, rather than the infection rate.

That fact, KPMG says, meant that officials often intervened too late. In particular, the Netherlands has managed the pandemic less well than Norway, Denmark and Finland, in terms of both economic growth and deaths, the report shows.

Some 24,000 more people died in the Netherlands that would have been statistically expected but there were hardly any excess deaths in Denmark, Norway and Finland, KPMG health economist David Ikkersheim said.

Those three countries went for a harder lockdown earlier than the Netherlands and imposed tougher border checks and rules for quarantine.

And while the Netherlands, with an economic contraction of just 0.2% did ‘reasonably’, thanks to government support, a number of Scandinavian economies actually grew during the pandemic, Ikkersheim told the NRC.

Too often, the Dutch strategy of ‘carefulness before speed’ deviated from international recommendations and precautionary measures were rarely taken. The lack of focus on testing and the months of debate about the use of face masks are examples of this, KPMG said.

The Dutch vaccination programme was also poorly prepared, in particular the assumption that the AstraZeneca vaccine would be first and administered by family doctors.

In reality, the Pfizer vaccine, which needed to be kept cool differently and therefore administered by health boards, was the first on the market. Despite this, the Netherlands has caught up and its current vaccination rate is higher than average, Ikkersheim notes.

The Netherlands would also have benefited from a more coordinated European approach, the report said. ‘When the Netherlands went for a lockdown, people could still sit at pavement cafes in Belgium and Germany,’ the report said.

‘When the Netherlands had the virus under control, visitors from neighbouring countries could still come here.’ The Dutch safety board is due to publish its own report at the beginning of next year, and there will also be a parliamentary inquiry.



Cafes, bars and restaurants are widely ignoring coronavirus checks

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Around one third of cafés and restaurants in the Netherlands are not checking customers have a valid coronavirus pass, according to a report by I&O Research, published almost three weeks since compulsory QR codes were introduced.

While QR codes were required in at least 82% of theatres, cinemas and concert halls, just 63% of cafes and 68% of restaurants are checking passes, I&O said. The survey is based on the experiences of a representative sample of 2,300 adults.

DutchNews is aware of several establishments where the rules are being ignored. In Amsterdam, for example, no checks are carried out at the busy FoodHallen complex, which has dozens of food stalls plus a bar.

Next door, however, visitors to the cinema do have to show their QR code. Robèr Willemsen, chairman of hospitality industry body KHN, said in a reaction that he had only heard positive reactions from both local authorities and council wardens.

‘But visitors would appear to experience things differently,’ he said.

The survey also found that people were, on the whole, positive about using the pass and that half of those who are not vaccinated and refuse to be tested are now avoiding going out.

But one in five said they visit places where they know they won’t be checked and 2% admit to using someone else’s pass. Health minister Hugo de Jonge confirmed on Wednesday that the pass system is likely to be used beyond November, when ministers had hoped it could be phased out.

The research also showed that 36% of people on low incomes refused to use a QR code, compared with just 4% to 5% of high earners. Some 86% of the population have downloaded the CoronaCheck app which generates the codes.



Covid rules should stay in place because of uncertainty about spread: OMT

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – New estimates about the spread of coronavirus in the autumn and winter are more unfavourable than thought earlier, government health advisors have said in their latest assessment of the pandemic.

‘There is a larger degree of uncertainty and a large increase in hospital and IC admissions cannot be ruled out,’ the Outbreak Managment Team say in their most recent report.

After social distancing was scrapped on September 25, the number of infections had risen within two weeks, and this makes it inadvisable to relax the rules even more, the OMT said.

On Tuesday, public health institute RIVM said the number of new infections had surged 48% over the past week to almost 3,000 a day.

If the current measures remain in the place – in particular the use of the CoronaCheck app to visit cafes, bars and clubs and the 75% capacity rule – the OMT expects a new peak in IC admissions by mid-January, taking the total number of beds to 180 to 400.

But if these measures are scrapped, IC occupancy could be as high as 800, the OMT said. There are currently around 140 people with coronavirus on IC wards The OMT will next meet on October 29 and the government is due to decide what to do next by the November 5 press conference.

Health minister Hugo de Jonge said on Tuesday that the elderly will be able to get a third booster shot of vaccine from November. And he told television talk show Op1 on Tuesday night that he expected the coronavirus pass system ‘will be needed for a while longer’.



Coronavirus risk level raised to ‘concern’, most hospital patients unvaccinated

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The coronavirus risk level over the entire country was raised to ‘concern’ on Wednesday, following a surge in new cases over the past week.

Last month the government agreed to phase out the regional risk levels and work on national system. The new system has three risk levels, caution, concern and serious, and is based on seven-day hospital admission averages and intensive care admissions.

The number of positive tests per 100,000 people is no longer an issue because the regional variations have been scrapped. On Wednesday, the public health institute RIVM reported 3,746 new cases overnight, up 843 on Tuesday and the highest number since July 27.

The number of positive tests are generally higher on Wednesday and Thursday because of the weekend effect. Nevertheless, Wednesday’s rise takes the average number of cases over the past seven days to 2,806, a rise of 62% on the week earlier period.

Microbiologist Marc Bonten, who is a member of the government’s coronavirus advice team, told RTL that it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine what is behind the rise in positive tests.

‘The vaccination rate is not spread evenly over the country and there is still a large group of people who won’t get tested or be vaccinated,’ he said. Hospital admissions have also risen slightly for the fifth day in a row and there are now 524 people being treated for coronavirus in hospital.

Of them, 95% are unvaccinated, Bonten said. The RIVM said on Tuesday that the expected autumn increase in positive cases has now set in.



Positive coronavirus tests rise 48% in a week, autumn rise is underway

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of positive coronavirus tests in the Netherlands has gone up 48% in the past week, hitting nearly 18,000, public health institute RIVM said in its weekly Tuesday update.

The number of tests taken has gone up, but were outstripped by the number of positive results, the RIVM said. Most new infections are in the under-50s. ‘The expected autumn rise in coronavirus cases would appear to have started,’ the RIVM said.

More coronavirus has also been identified through waste water analysis and more people are also reporting coronavirus-like symptoms. There has also been an increase in the number of hospital admissions.

Last week, 335 people were admitted to hospital, compared with 282 in the previous seven-day period. The number of intensive care admissions remained virtually unchanged at 66.

In total, 512 people are currently being treated in hospital, the first time the figure has topped 500 since September 22.


The reproduction rate, which shows how the virus is spreading, has also risen to 1.12, meaning 1.12 people are being infected for every person with the virus. That figure is only updated every two weeks, and the information used in the update comes from September 27.

The Netherlands relaxed most of its coronavirus measures on September 25, abandoning social distancing and the use of face masks in most places apart from public transport.

Cafes and clubs have also been allowed to open on condition that customers show a QR code which indicates they have either been vaccinated, recently had coronavirus or a negative test within 24 hours.

Just over 332,000 tests were carried out on people who do not want to be vaccinated last week. Some 83% of the population over the age of 18 have been fully vaccinated but only 58% of 12 to 17-year-olds are fully protected.

There are also wide regional differences. On the former island of Urk, just 27% of people have been vaccinated while in Staphorst, like Urk a staunch Protestant community, the figure is 52%.



Elderly people in NL can have a third coronavirus vaccination from November

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Elderly people in the Netherlands will be able to have a third shot against coronavirus from November, health minister Hugo de Jonge said on Tuesday, without making more details public.

The ‘oldest elderly’ in nursing homes may be top of the list for a third dose, De Jonge said. Currently, people with a weakened immune system are eligible for a third vaccination.

‘We are going to start a booster campaign, so then you think about the oldest of the elderly,’ he said. ‘Their immunity is reducing slightly, so it would be important to them… you don’t want problems in nursing homes again.’

Public health institute RIVM and the national health council are currently drawing up recommendations for third vaccinations. More details are likely to be made public on November 5, when De Jonge and prime minister Mark Rutte will hold a press conference about the coronavirus pandemic.



Cabinet ponders stricter rules for influencers who use children for profit

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The caretaker cabinet wants to tackle social media influencers who exploit their children to make money and to open a special phone line to report abuse.

The Netherlands has strong rules about children under 13 who participate in ads and tv programmes but these rules are not being followed by so-called ‘family vloggers’ who use family members to promote products.

Children who appear regularly must have a special dispensation from the social affairs inspectorate but this rarely happens in practice, consumer rights programme Kassa found.

Kassa showed the example of 4-year-old Claire Meiland from reality show Chateau Meiland, who is used in Instagram ads but who, according to the rules, cannot appear on television more than six times a year.

‘It’s a grey area,’ caretaker junior social affairs minister Dennis Wiersma told the programme. ‘We don’t mind people getting a 10% discount once in a while if their child wears a t-shirt of a certain brand but if a child is called in ten times a day to promote apple sauce it’s a commercial enterprise and child labour.

We want that to become even clearer.’ The junior minister said a national phone line would be opened shortly to report potential instances of child labour on social media.

Meanwhile, the social affairs ministry inspectorate is looking into adapting existing rules and will be having talks with parents and child development experts about the issue.



Sinterklaas showdown looms as rivals organise separate parades in Amsterdam

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The annual arrival of Sinterklaas has become a polarising event in the last decade, but it has never featured two rival saints and their entourages locked in battle on the quayside.

Until now. The prospect of two rival parades is the result of a schism in the Sinterklaas in Amsterdam organisation, which is responsible for the launch of the festive season in mid-November. A

group of volunteers broke away in protest at plans to move this year’s event to the Johan Cruyff Arena, as well as chairman Edgar Peer’s efforts to make the organisation more professional.

Those plans, designed to comply with the coronavirus rules, have since been abandoned, but the reversal came too late to stop the organisation splitting in two.

Peer and the two other office-bearers this week announced they were reverting to the more traditional canal tour ending at the Scheepvaartmuseum, followed by a reception at the neighbouring naval terrain, which has room for 6,000 people.

Separate steamship

However, the breakaway volunteers have booked their own steamship, launched a website and organised sponsors for their own trip to the maritime museum. In previous years up to 400,000 spectators have lined the canals of Amsterdam to welcome Sinterklaas on his steamship laden with presents.

Since 2017 he has been accompanied by sooty-faced assistants rather than blackface Zwarte Piets in an effort to modernise the tradition. Peer told the Parool newspaper last week that the row over the plan for an alternative ceremony in the Johan Cruyff Arena in front of 55,000 children and parents had deepened the rift within the organisation.

‘People’s names were being blackened on social media,’ he said. ‘I want to co-operate with everyone, but the club behind this campaign has ostracised itself as far as I’m concerned. It’s all hands-on deck, but anyone who doesn’t want to join in can leave.’

City mayor Femke Halsema said she was ‘deeply saddened’ by the row and pledged to offer additional financial support on top of the €180,000 subsidy the event already receives.

Halsema has told the city council she will speak to the rival parties, but she is unwilling to take sides in a dispute about the capital’s cultural heritage. ‘We want to have a celebratory atmosphere so our children in Amsterdam can enjoy a fun-filled day,’ she said.


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