The high number of infections that now provide additional measures was unpredictable. That says OMT member and microbiologist Marc Bonten. “We knew the delta variant would become dominant. And that its much more contagious. But we couldnt foresee that 20 to 30 superspread events would take place in two weekends.”
The government didnt want to relax until 21 July in the original plan of the Roadmap. But as the number of infections and hospitalizations decreased rapidly, the easing came much earlier.
When disclosing, the major concern was the reversal of the face mask duty and less working from home, says Bonten. “But actually, the danger was in allowing events again, which we were going to check so well. We thought. And that failed.”
According to Bonten, the Outbreak Management Team saw the spread coming. A revival in the second half of summer was taken into account. It would be muted by the vaccines. Bonten: “Now its happening much faster. We havent estimated that much. Because then, of course, we would never have given the advice.”
At the time of writing the advice, there were 918 infections. The Netherlands was one of the few countries with considerable easing, at a relatively high level of contamination.
Bonten thinks responsible a big word for OMT advice. “Were all doing this. But if I talk for myself, with todays knowledge, we would never have done it that way.”
From pub to pub
At the FieldLab event, he considered a good look at what can be safe. “Those were all very controlled experiments. Now we had to make a leap in the deep, where you always have to take risk. I heard that thousands of youngsters were moving from pub to pub. You cant test that in advance either. The conclusion is very clear: that failed.”
In Access Tests, OMT advised that a test should be valid for 24 hours. The cabinet made 40 hours of that. Bonten: “Youll have a chance that a test is still negative, while someone is already getting contagious. The longer that duration in between, the higher the chances will be. If you go on a pub crawl for two days with a negative test, you dont have an ideal situation.”
According to the OMT, the full increase in the number of infections is accounted for by the age group 18-30 years. Many clusters can be linked to hospitality and parties.
Yet, according to Bonten, this rapid spread was unforeseen. “There were measures, tests agreements. We relied on that. Those measures did not function properly. Then you have to kick the brakes very quickly. Thats happening in a week now.”