CORONA MEASURES IN DUTCH SCHOOLS – UPDATE 29 NOVEMBER
Unfortunately, the Covid situation has drastically changed compared to the mildly positive previous press conference in the end of September. On average, more than 21,000 people per day tested positive in the past week. This is the highest number of positive cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Moreover, the first people have been diagnosed with the new omicron variant.
Different from earlier waves, though, the group of 0-12 year olds is currently the most effected. Luckily, most of them only have mild symptoms and recover after a few days. It is extremely rare for children to end up in hospital. Although children mostly seem to pass the virus onto other children, many parents and teachers have gotten sick as well. In fact, almost one fourth of all 167,834 primary school teachers in the Netherlands has tested positive at least once since March 2020.
Schools stay open
Because of the importance of the academic progress and socio-emotional wellbeing of the children, the schools stay open as much as possible. Some extra corona measures have been taken in the Dutch schools.
Ventilation and hygiene
The school makes sure that enough fresh air can enter the building, and everyone washes their hands after coming from outside and after toilet use.
From group 6 (age 9) onwards, the pupils have to wear face masks in the hallways and other places where they meet other people. In the classroom, they may take their masks off. This also applies to the teachers and other staff. Parents and ‘other’ adults are not welcome at school anymore, unless they have a valid reason.
The school tries not to mix children from different classes, and spreads the breaks over the day. Teachers have to keep 1.5 meters distance from each other. This doesn’t apply to the children. Non-teaching staff works from home as much as possible and meetings take place online.
Children from age 4 who have Covid symptoms, have to stay home and get tested, also when their symptoms are mild. When they have a chronic condition like asthma or hay fever, they may go to school, provided they have no fever or shortness of breath. Parents can make use of this decision tree.
The pupils from groups 6, 7, and 8 of primary school, secondary school students, as well as the staff are advised to take a self test twice per week, this also applies to people who have been fully vaccinated. These tests are free and voluntarily. From next week, the schools will receive a supply from the government for the children and staff to use. When the test results are positive, the person needs to make an appointment with the Municipal Public Health Service (GGD) for a PCR test. The whole family has to quarantine in this case. When the test results are negative, the child or teacher may go back to school.
The GGD decides which classmates have to quarantine, based on close contacts. The entire class is being sent home after around 6-7 children in one class have tested positive. In this case, the class receives online education again.
The other statistics
The pressure on the hospitals is currently very high, and they already had to cancel many non-urgent surgeries and treatments to keep ICU beds available for Covid patients. At this moment, there are in total 1150 ICU beds, of which 605 are occupied by Covid patients. This is the highest number since May 23rd this year. The hospitals have been asked to increase this number to 1250 beds, but the problem is often the shortage of staff. Many hospital personnel suffers from a burnout after the previous waves, or are sick themselves. Some patients are transferred to other hospitals with better availability in the Netherlands or as far as Germany.
85.2% of all people aged 18 and older (and 83.4% for 12 and older) has been fully vaccinated. 88.7% of the 18+ group has had their first dose.
About half of the Covid patients in the hospitals has not been vaccinated. On average is the non-vaccinated patient about 20 years younger than the vaccinated patient, and most of the vaccinated patients already had another health condition. In the period of 29 September to 23 November, the effectiveness of vaccines was 91% against hospital admission, and 96% against ICU admission. The effectiveness has slowly been decreasing over time, especially among older people and those with a weaker health. Therefore, health care workers, people aged 60+ and patients with a compromised immune system get invited for a booster (3rd vaccine). The rollout of the boosters goes relatively slow in the Netherlands. 80 military medical personnel and many volunteers are going to help and try to vaccinate as many people as possible before the end of the year – on a voluntary basis. There has to be an interval of at least seven months between the 2nd and 3rd vaccine.
Since the beginning, a total of 19,642 people have been registered as having died from Covid. In reality, this number is higher. In the last week of November, almost 1100 more people died than anticipated – compared to other years. These were not all Covid-related deaths, obviously.
Results of measures
The first results of the most recent measures (for example, everything closes at 5 pm), seem to be moderately positive, as the reproduction number (R) is now slightly lower than 1. We are not there yet, and in the meantime everyone is sick and tired of the whole thing.
Hold tight and stay safe!