The Netherlands eliminated its last remaining restrictions and official advice regarding the coronavirus on Friday, exactly 1,107 days after the first person tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in the country. Health Minister Ernst Kuipers told reporters who were gathered after the Council of Ministers meeting that the Cabinet elected to adopt the advice presented by the Outbreak Management Team late last month. Millions of people have tested positive, and over 46,000 have died from the infection.
“It is a special moment. It is something to reflect upon,” Kuipers said after the meeting. “The first measures were announced just over three years ago. But fortunately, almost every Dutch person now has some form of defense,” he said referring to immunity built up by vaccinations and prior infections. The first vaccine in the country was administered 793 days ago on January 6, 2021. “We can consider coronavirus as a normal respiratory virus,” Kuipers said.
As a result of the decision, more coronavirus test facilities operated by the GGD municipal health service are expected to be closed. The official advice from the Dutch government up until Friday was for people to use a self-test kit or visit a GGD facility to get tested for the coronavirus when they show symptoms of Covid-19. Those people were also advised to enter into isolation if a test produces a positive result for a period of at least five days, and until either symptoms disappeared for a full 24 hours, or the tenth day of isolation passed.
For a period of 10 days, those who tested positive were also told to remain 1.5 meters from others, avoid contact with medically vulnerable people, and to meticulously follow hygiene guidelines. They were also advised to wear face masks in public indoor spaces, in crowded outdoor areas, on public transport, and in education facilities. Those pieces of advise will no longer be considered official policy. Additionally, healthcare workers will no longer be required to wear a face mask when in close contact with a patient.
The Outbreak Management Team said the coronavirus should no longer be considered a pandemic, but rather it has transitioned into an endemic phase where it is now part of everyday life. The policy advisors also said people should be trusted to use common sense when they develop Covid-19 symptoms, just as they would when coming down with a cold or flu. Likewise, no new round of Covid-19 vaccinations will likely be organized.
Roughly 8.6 million positive coronavirus tests have been recorded by Dutch health authorities, and 46,258 people died from the start of the pandemic through September 30, according to the country’s national statistics office. A population survey of 13,000 residents found that about one in eight suffer from Long Covid, where they struggle with symptoms well after their infection. The syndrome, also known as Post Covid, includes symptoms like chest pain, loss of smell and taste, shortness of breath, fatigue, or muscle pain after infection.
This week, the Netherlands also recorded the highest number of new Covid-19 hospitalizations in six months. Earlier in the week, there were over 900 patients being treated for the disease, though that figure fell below 900 on Friday.
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