Six months after Bruins’ note: “I asked if the ministry could wait a day

“I am confirmed that there is a patient with the coronavirus in the Netherlands. It is said to be a man who is staying in isolation in the Tweestedenziekenhuis in Tilburg.”

With that announcement by then Minister Bruno Bruins on 27 February in a live CCeit broadcast it was official: The Netherlands belongs to the habitat of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Bruins read the notice from a note:

Mayor Theo Weterings of Tilburg was not very happy with that announcement, he says looking back: “In the afternoon I knew about the contamination and then preparations had to be made to make it known. I contacted the ministry and asked if we could do that the next day.”

In the car

On February 26th, the patient in question had entered the emergency room with flu-like symptoms, says Edo Arnoldus, neurologist and chairman of the medical staff of the ETZ: “According to the RIVM, he did not belong to the group of patients who had to be tested per se. He had been in northern Italy, but not in the specific places that the RIVM had identified as areas at risk.”

At that time, however, the hospital’s policy was to test patients with flu-like symptoms anyway. On Thursday morning, February 27, the man tested positive for corona. But to be absolutely sure that it was really about the virus, a second test was taken. Arnoldus: “I said to my wife: ‘There is a program on tv tonight about corona. Half an hour before the broadcast with Bruins Arnoldus was called by the chairman of the board of the hospital: the second test also turned out to be positive.

And so he didn’t sit quietly on the couch, but jumped into the car for a crisis meeting at the hospital. About ten of them were in the staff room on the first floor. During their meeting the TV was on. They saw the minister read the note.

Look in this video how four protagonists look back on the corona outbreak:

Mayor Weterings sat the next day at 12.30 p.m. together with a doctor-microbiologist from the ETZ and a doctor from the GGD behind a large table, full of microphones. Representatives of all Dutch media wanted to know how big the risk is that more coronavirus events would follow.

“According to the standards of the GGD, the patient was not contagious in the days he celebrated Carnival,” said Weterings in the press conference. Weterings now: “The knowledge about the virus has increased tremendously in the past six months. Now we know that people can spread the virus even without symptoms.”

Carnival at the beginning of February probably played a major role in the spread of the virus in the Netherlands. That is why Brabant and Limburg became the epicentre of the outbreak.

In the hospital in Tilburg they were surprised. Not necessarily by the number of infections, but by the clinical picture. Edo Arnoldus: “People who came into the hospital a little cramped were sometimes dead an hour later. They didn’t even make it to the ICU. That cut it incredibly short.”

“On March 12th at the breakfast table I called my colleague Jorritsma from Eindhoven”, says Weterings. “This is a completely different film than what we saw the screenplay for two weeks ago, I told him.”

Six months later, both are much more positive. Weterings: “We’ve learned a lot.” Arnoldus: “We know a lot more about how to treat the disease. And we have gained a lot of experience with cooperation between hospitals, such as spreading patients when a hospital is in danger of becoming overburdened.”

So should there be a second wave, they are much better prepared in Tilburg. They can give you that on a note.

This map shows the development of the virus in the Netherlands. For app users: first click on the image: