Dutch weigh vaccine boosters, new restrictions as COVID-19 cases surge

Dutch weigh vaccine boosters, new restrictions as COVID-19 cases surge
FILE PHOTO: People with and without protective masks walk on the street while shopping as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Amsterdam, Netherlands October 7, 2020. REUTERS/Eva Plevier

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch health authorities are to decide on Tuesday whether to recommend COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for adults, while the government weighs a new package of restrictions, amid the latest surge in new infections.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte is expected to announce new measures to slow the spread of the virus at a press conference slated for 1800GMT.

Measures under consideration include the reintroduction of face masks in some settings, asking those who are able to work from home to do so more often, and broader use of the country’s proof-of-vaccination “corona pass” currently used to gain admittance to bars and restaurants.

While 84% of the Dutch adult population has been vaccinated, new infections have risen steadily since the government ordered an end to social distancing rules on Sept. 25.

As of Monday, new infections were up 45% week on week and quickly approaching the peaks previously seen in July 2021, and in December and October 2020.

The strain on hospitals is an immediate concern, as many are curtailing normal care to accommodate a new wave of COVID-19 patients. The country’s National Institute for Health (RIVM) estimates that three-quarters of those currently hospitalized with the virus are unvaccinated.

Among people testing positive in the past month, about 53% say they were unvaccinated, while 44% say they were fully vaccinated, according to RIVM data.

A spokesperson for the country’s Health Council said the key advisory body will announce its decision at 1400GMT on whether to recommend booster shots for all adults.

The council in September recommended booster shots for people in high-risk categories. It said then that getting unvaccinated people to get a first shot was a higher priority than boosters for the vaccinated.

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