Special measures to stop the spread of coronavirus in the Netherlands are to be extended until April 28 at least, prime minister Mark Rutte told a press conference on Tuesday. This means cafes, restaurants, museums and schools will remain shut for the next four weeks.
The decision has been taken on the basis of expert advice, the prime minister said. ‘We realise we are asking a lot of people, but it is really necessary,’ Rutte said. ‘The capacity in hospitals and intensive care units leaves us with no other choice.’ ‘The good news is that we don’t have to bring in extra measures,’ the prime minister said. Measures currently in effect in the Netherlands In effect, the measure means that schools will be closed until May 3, because the May school holidays start on April 25.
Parents considering booking a holiday during the Easter or May break should not do so, the prime minister said. ‘There is a very real chance that we will have to extend the measures past April 28,’ Rutte said. ‘We don’t want people to travel all over the country, and after April 28 we certainly won’t be back the way we were.’
All sports events, including premier league football, are also cancelled until at least June 1, the current deadline for the ban on organised events. Intensive care Health minister Hugo de Jonge told the press conference that the Netherlands will have increased capacity at IC units to 2,400 by next Sunday. He also announced plans to start testing healthcare workers who are not directly involved in treating coronavirus for the disease. More labs, longer days and utilising private sector sources will enable four times as many tests to be carried out, De Jonge said.
Asked why the Netherlands was not expanding its test capacity even further, De Jonge said it should be possible to head towards 29,000 tests a day. Experts have advised to focus first on other healthcare workers, he said. Expanding to 29,000 tests a day will take several weeks, the minister said. This also means that there must be sufficient supplies to reach that capacity and that is why the increase in testing is being done step by step. General immunity tests among the general population are a key part of the ‘exit strategy’ to assess who can work, De Jonge said. ‘We have asked for recommendations and we will take a decision about using the immunity tests next week,’ De Jonge said.