After a reported increase of COVID infections and ICU admissions within the past week, Mark Rutte, the Dutch Prime Minister, has called for stricter measures in an effort to curb the spread of the virus and reduce the number of ICU cases. During a press conference on the 8th of December 2020, he asserted that it is unlikely that current measures would be relaxed for the Christmas Holidays. These restrictions include permissible group sizes and household guests. Additionally, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge pointed out the need for compliance with these measures as opposed to enforcement. The government highly recommends the tightening of these measures in a bid to avoid repeating the mistake of loosening restrictions quickly as most countries had done during the summer.
This decision is portrayed to be difficult but supposedly necessary to take. The government hoped for a decrease in intensive care admissions (10 per day) which would have led to a relaxation of these measures. However, the first week of December did not show any promise as it brought an upsurge of infections and a doubling of intensive care admissions. Consequently, stricter measures will have to remain through the Christmas holidays and no more than three guests over the age of 13 will be allowed for the Christmas celebrations. The Prime Minister expressed sympathy and acknowledged the difficulty that most families will face this Christmas. He stated that “this year, Christmas is extra important. It has been a tough year, full of loss and mourning. I think everyone is completely done with this. In any case, I am. Nevertheless, we have to persevere.”
A list of measures enforced from the 1st of December contains some modifications to the rules. Everyone over the age of 13 is mandated to wear a mask on public transportation and in indoor spaces open to the public such as libraries, supermarkets, and stores. Violators will be issued a fine of €95. These mask restrictions are enforced by the police who have given numerous fines and arrests. Also, the limitations for groups remain in place with no more than three guests a day at home. People who don’t live at the same address are mandated to follow the social distancing rule. However, exceptions apply to groups of no more than four people from mixed households outside of their home. You can exercise or participate in a sport within 1.5 meters but, all forms of competitions are forbidden. It is not advisable to travel outside of the Netherlands unless it is necessary. In any case, you should consult the advice of the Dutch Ministry of foreign affairs and plan accordingly. Restaurants are to remain closed except for takeout. Note that you will not be able to buy alcohol and soft drugs between 8 PM and 7 AM, so make sure that you plan accordingly.
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You’re undoubtedly curious about the COVID-19 vaccines. In general, vaccines take years to develop before they are rolled out to the general public, however, studies of several COVID vaccine candidates, have allegedly shown promising results and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has already been approved in several countries. National regulatory authorities in other countries are still reviewing the COVID vaccines. A committee of vaccine scientists in the US has recommended the authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration, for Americans. This recommendation came after a vote of 17 in favour, 4 against and one abstained. In the Netherlands, the Health Minister Hugo de Jonge has ruled out any COVID vaccinations for December. Instead, they will be rolled out in the first week of January when the first shipment of 507 thousand doses will arrive. The health minister has projected the end of March for widespread vaccinations in the country.
However, this projection does not take the anti-vaccination movement and other COVID vaccine sceptics into account. Over 35% of the population in Netherlands have expressed reservations and said that they will choose not to get the vaccines as they do not trust the effectiveness, seeing as it was developed in such a short period of time. It doesn’t help that former Pfizer Chief Scientist Dr Michael Yeadon, has expressed his opposition to the COVID vaccines. He posits that it is unwise to vaccinate people who aren’t at risk with a vaccine that has not been tested extensively on human subjects. Additionally, it is believed that the vaccines will be mandatory however, EU leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have stated otherwise. This includes a spokesperson for the health minister Hugo de Jong. Nevertheless, nothing is set in stone. It is possible that the COVID-19 vaccines will keep you from getting sick but there is no definite answer as to whether it will also prevent you from spreading it. or the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, it’s believed that 175 people need to be vaccinated to prevent a single infection. The WHO and other leaders are pushing for a 65%-70% vaccine coverage rate to reach population immunity.
We still have a long way to go. The promise of COVID-19 vaccines is in no way a green light to relax our vigilance and compliance with COVID restrictions. It is advised to continue to wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and keep your hopes high that travel restrictions will soon end.
In the video below, you can hear Rutte say: “We have to earn our freedom together.”