No need for action now on coronavirus, says public health chief

Jolande Sap and Jaap van Dissel talk to MPs. Photo: Robin van Lonkhuijsen ANP

The Netherlands does not yet need to take any new steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus and the increase in infections over the past two weeks is ‘relatively modest’, Jaap van Dissel, head of the public health institute RIVM told MPs on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the institute warned that there are signs the Netherlands is at the beginning of the expected autumn wave, after positive tests, hospital admissions and the reproduction rate all rose.

Van Dissel, who was addressing parliament’s healthcare committee, said most people who are currently infected have mild symptoms and the impact on the rest of society is limited. However, the RIVM chief said the agency would be monitoring developments closely in the coming weeks.

Jolande Sap, head of the government’s new advisory board which looks at the social, psychological and economic aspects of coronavirus strategy, said in her statement that the government is not yet properly prepared to deal with worst case scenarios.

The social impact team (MIT) is due to publish its first report on Thursday.

All possible scenarios should be looked at, Sap, a former leader of the left-wing green party GroenLinks, told MPs. And while plans for how different economic sectors have been drawn up, there is no plan for ‘people in vulnerable positions’, such as youngsters and people who find it difficult to get a job, she said.

In addition, moral dilemmas such as the reintroduction of a coronavirus pass, are being ignored, she said. ‘It must be included in the tool box for dealing with emergency situations,’ she said. ‘It should still be considered as an alternative for closing down a sector.’

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