Netherlands to ease coronavirus lockdown

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Netherlands has put forward plans to begin an easing of its lockdown – and they are proving controversial.

Primary schools and daycare centres are due to reopen in the country in early May, prime minister Mark Rutte announced last week, although class sizes may be cut to accommodate health guidelines, NLTimes reported.

Controversy soon erupted, however, when a member of the Dutch outbreak management team suggested in a television appearance that the reopening of schools was part of a strategy to allow the virus to gradually spread through the population.

Speaking on school reopening plans, Ann Vossen said last Tuesday that the Dutch government’s aim was not to eradicate the epidemic, but to slow it down. She said:

It’s a common sentiment among the general public that we should ‘put a stop to it now!’ But that is not really the goal here. We just want to make sure it spreads in a gradual way, so to speak, while keeping the risk to public health the healthcare system as low as possible. But we do not want to halt it completely, because in that case we would have had to opt for a complete lockdown.

Such “herd immunity” strategies have proven a difficult sell to populations, with the UK government having been forced to make a sharp U-turn after it initially said the outcome was part of its plan for dealing with the virus.

They are counter to the advice from the World Health Organization, which has called for a “test, trace and quarantine” strategy to keep outbreaks as controlled as possible until a vaccine is available.

However, in Sweden, the government has had more support for a similar approach.

The latest coronavirus statistics from the Netherlands and Sweden are due shortly and I will post them when they arrive.