05 January 2022, by Victoria Séveno

With the current lockdown set to lift on January 14, the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) is already examining the COVID-19 data from the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) and looking ahead to the next press conference – but will all the restrictions be lifted next week? OMT members have warned the public not to get their hopes up. 

OMT warns it’s unlikely that all lockdown restrictions will be lifted

The cabinet has already confirmed that primary and secondary schools, as well as after-school care, will reopen on January 10, and have announced a slight relaxation of the rules for outdoor sports activities for those under the age of 18 – instead of having to stop at 5pm, from January 11, children and teenagers will be able to exercise outside up until 8pm.

Beyond this, little is known about what the future restrictions might look like, although this week, members of the OMT were keen to let the public know that it’s unlikely that all restrictions will be lifted next week. “If there is room for easing, I think the OMT will say: take it in small steps and keep seeing what happens – there is a lot of uncertainty,” medical microbiologist Marc Bonten told Nieuwsuur.

Bonten explained that next week was too early to lift all of the coronavirus restrictions, but the OMT has said there should be “further room…to relax measures” at the end of the month, thanks to the success of the booster vaccination campaign. The OMT will meet on Friday to discuss the national restrictions and the COVID-19 situation.

COVID-19 infections in the Netherlands rise, hospitalisations fall

Projections outlined by the OMT show that opening schools on Monday will lead to a “wave of infections” at the end of January or beginning of February – but the experts have determined that the risk is minor and shouldn’t put too much pressure on hospitals and healthcare workers. 

The Netherlands has now been on lockdown for two and a half weeks, but the latest report from the RIVM has revealed that, in spite of the tough restrictions, the number of coronavirus cases in the Netherlands increased by 35 percent this week, but hospital admissions continue to fall. 

Doctors say the new Omicron variant is significantly more contagious than the previously dominant Delta variant, but that it is less likely to lead to hospitalisation and death. While studies show Omicron is between 30 and 65 percent less pathogenic than other variants of the virus, the OMT has warned that there is still a very real risk of overloading the Dutch healthcare system if restrictions are lifted too early or too quickly.

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