“It may well be your last debate as Minister of Health, so I would like to thank you very much for all your efforts.” Words from GroenLinks MP Westerveld towards the end of the corona debate, Wednesday evening, against Hugo de Jonge.
Other MPs also thought about the commitment of the outgoing minister in the corona pandemic and good wishes were exchanged for recess and Christmas. But whether they really stop seeing each other before that time is the question: there is a real chance that corona measures will be debated again before Christmas.
Rutte and De Jonge said it a day earlier at the press conference: we have to brace ourselves for an upcoming omikron wave. The concerns are big and serious, De Jonge now repeated in the Chamber.
In that light, a majority of the House supported the extension of the current package of measures, such as the evening lockdown, until 14 January. There were questions: for example, De Jonge opposition parties wanted to know why primary schools still have to close and other measures have not been looked at. De Jonge, who also said “profusely from the decision to pay”, explained that things really couldnt be different and pointed to the high number of infections in primary education.
Minister of Education Slob – who held on to keeping schools open for a long time – spoke of a “bitter pill”, but stressed how quickly things have changed in a week. Hence the early closure of the schools and the extension of the other measures.
Whether this together will be enough to counteract the wave of infections with the omikron variant has yet to prove. “We still dont know much about the new variant,” emphasized De Jonge. Omikron is expected to become dominant in early January. While the number of infections with the delta variant is slowly decreasing, the number of infections with omikron is expected to increase rapidly in January.
This Friday, the Outbreak Management Team will meet again. There may be more information from England, said De Jonge. It may be that there will be a new weighing moment after that, and additional measures will already be announced next week.
Meanwhile, like the RIVM this morning, the cabinet is repeating the message to “boost, boost, boost”. British research shows that this can provide some benefit in the protection against the omikron variant. But everything should really be as soon as possible, acknowledges De Jonge. “Its really hozen.”