Dutch Health Minister Ernst Kuipers cannot guarantee that there will be no new lockdown in the country. This depends, among other things, on the possibility of the emergence of new, pathogenic and highly contagious corona variants, against which current vaccines do not work. This is what Kuipers said in a parliamentary debate about his long-term approach to confronting Corona.
Kuipers said he could not indicate when stricter measures would be needed. In the previous crisis, pressure on care and the occupation of intensive care were important factors in the actions to be taken. “But the situation is different now,” the minister said. “There are other variables and there will be, and many people have already been infected. I cannot now predict whether the number of infections will be the main factor, or whether the variant is pathogenic.”
Kuipers also explained that the Dutch government currently has no legal options to enforce measures, such as wearing mouth masks or maintaining a distance. This legal basis disappeared after the Senate rejected a new extension of the temporary Corona Act in May. Only after amending the Public Health Law will the government be able to impose mandatory measures again. A proposal to this effect was made by Kuipers in August.
If the emergency situation is high, Kuipers can resort to emergency regulations, as was the practice in the Netherlands at the beginning of the Corona crisis.
Kuipers does not share the Dutch parliament’s concerns about insufficient capacity in the municipal health services to be able to vaccinate many people quickly as soon as possible. Three million people could be vaccinated within six weeks. That seems enough for him.
However, he is concerned about the rate of vaccinations: the minister said the turnout in the latest round of vaccinations was “disappointing”. In that round earlier this year, all people over 60 and people in poor health were able to get a second booster dose. Many people do not.
Intensive care capacity
Kuipers does not want to satisfy Parliament’s widely shared desire to expand intensive care capacity. He said that this capacity is sufficient. There are now 993 operational beds for integrated circuits, beds scheduled for staff. Of those, 686 were in use Thursday. Corona patients are in 24 of that family.
If necessary, it is possible to expand the range of up to 1,700 IC beds. The minister said that IC departments could not handle more. Then there is not enough staff available for each patient. Regular care will also be stressed.