According to the cabinet, the current lockdown in the Netherlands was in no way preventable. Demissionary Prime Minister Rutte said in the House of Representatives that even if we had more IC capacity and started boosting earlier, we would have now entered a lockdown.
The potential dangers of the omikron variant are so great that far-reaching measures cannot be avoided, says Rutte. He referred to the situation in other countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany. There, the IC capacity is higher and they started to boost earlier, but the same measures are on the table.
Many parties in the House of Representatives wondered whether we will not be presented with the lockdown for previous misses in the corona policy. Due to too early easing in September, hospital occupancy is still high and there is too little buffer to accommodate an upcoming omikron wave. At the same time, the Netherlands is still lagging behind in giving booster pricks.
But according to Rutte, without lockdown, we run the risk that 4000 IC beds will be needed at the end of January, while 1350 is actually the maximum achievable. “Of course, if you can scale up unlimited, there comes a time when you can prevent a lockdown. But then you do get the medical-ethical question whether you want so many people in a coma, breathed with all kinds of snakes in their bodies, fight for their lives.”
MP Fleur Agema of the PVV believes that the cabinet is doing far too little to increase the capacity in healthcare. “This Prime Minister would rather close society than invest in healthcare,” she said. She claims that the forthcoming cabinet is cutting billions in health care, although according to Rutte, it is about slowing down the growth in spending.
The Prime Minister referred to the 300 million euros his new cabinet wants to spend on ‘pandemic preparedness’. With the money, he wants to flexibly scale the care capacity with subsequent waves and pandemics, without it being at the expense of regular care. “But also without us being in normal situations with empty beds with staff that have nothing to do.”
Several MPs wanted to know exactly how that works, but Rutte referred to the new ministerial team. “It has to work out the plans.”
The left-wing opposition parties in particular insisted on a long-term vision of the cabinet. “We are dead end and can no longer afford to continue this way,” said Attje Chick of the PvdA. “The dot on the horizon is missing,” said Lisa Westerveld of GroenLinks.
According to Rutte, the cabinet is working on a long-term strategy on how we can live with the virus in the future. “In January, we hope to be a long way with that.”
De Jonge: prick more often
In that future, we must at least take more pricks into account, Demissionary Minister De Jonge made clear. Anyone 12 years and older may be called for a repeat injection twice a year.
From April, the vaccine manufacturers think they have ready an update that is more specifically focused on the omikron variant. Those vaccines will be purchased and offered in the spring, said De Jonge.
Need a booster for QR code
He is happy with the current booster campaign, which is now getting pretty underway. The booster will also be important for the validity of the corona access certificate. Those who want a green check mark after 1 February will have to pick up on time. The regular vaccination remains valid for 9 months, after which a booster is necessary for a valid QR code.
In doing so, the cabinet is in line with the European rules regarding the validity of the corona virus document. Today, the Member States agreed that that also 9 months will remain valid.
The booster pricks are now only approved for use in people over 18, but De Jonge thinks that in the future, young people will also need a booster for a green check mark at home or abroad.