THE HAGUE (Netherlands) -- On Wednesday, social distancing was mandatory in all of the Netherlands because coronavirus cases rose dramatically and the country's top intensive care physician demanded that more drastic measures be taken to stop the spread.
Hugo de Jonge, Health Minister, stated that the press conference scheduled for Dec. 3, on coronavirus measures, has been moved to Friday.
De Jonge stated that the picture was somber and troubling to reporters at The Hague.
The Netherlands is experiencing a coronavirus epidemic. In recent weeks, the country has set new daily records in terms of coronavirus infection rates. Last week, the country's public hospital institute recorded a 39% increase in infections. Hospital and intensive care unit admissions also increased.
De Jonge stated, "The turnaround we want to see this week... in order to ensure that the pressure on healthcare doesn't get to high, has to happen soon otherwise we will need to force it."
De Jonge stated that the government had asked for expert advice and would make decisions on Friday.
Diederik Gommers (head of the national association for intensive care units) appealed Tuesday night to have a strict lockdown. This would include closing schools. Something the government had been trying to avoid.
Gommers stated to a committee made up of lawmakers that hospitals in the country are only 10 days away being overburdened by COVID-19 patients. Intensive care doctors will need to make decisions about who is eligible for care.
According to a hospital that helps patients get between hospitals, there are approximately 500 COVID-19 patients currently in Dutch ICUs. Gommers stated that the number of beds in Dutch ICUs could be increased to between 1,200 and 1,250, and that approximately 50 COVID-19 patients enter ICUs every day.
He stated that the government's goal of 1,350 beds was impossible to achieve because ICU staff are either sick or have children who have tested positive.
He stated that there is only one way to reduce pressure on ICUs. "To ensure that admissions go down very quickly." Tough measures are the best way to reduce admissions. I believe that strict lockdown is the best. Schools are included because I believe if schools aren't closed, you can't prevent infections."
Figures reveal that the Netherlands had the highest infection rates for children between 5 and 11 years old in the past week. The European Union's drug regulator is still waiting to decide whether the Netherlands and other European countries will approve the COVID-19 vaccine for elementary school-age children.
The Dutch government, which had been in caretaker mode during long-drawn-out coalition talks after a March 17th election, put the country in partial lockdown starting Nov. 13. Bars, restaurants and supermarkets were ordered to close at 8 p.m. Other shops and services were required to close by 6 p.m. People were encouraged to work remotely.
Social distancing was made mandatory by the government Wednesday for all 18-year-olds and older in areas where COVID passes do not apply. The government strongly recommended social distancing, which is staying 1.5m away from anyone not belonging to one's immediate family. It is now mandatory so that law enforcement officers can fine those who don't comply.