Coronavirus: why Dutch foreclosure can be a high-risk strategy

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Tram in The Hague

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Anna Holligan

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Trams are almost empty, but under the Dutch lock, everything is not closed


The Netherlands has tried to adopt a “smart lock”, but the infection is spreading quickly and has one of the highest pandemic mortality rates in the world.

The Dutch have also been accused of not showing solidarity with the southern European countries hardest hit by the coronavirus.

What are the objectives of the Dutch and how did Italy hit react?

What is a “smart lock”?

The Dutch are among the few who openly embrace the controversial idea of ​​group or herd immunity. It is an approach characterized by a Dutch global health expert as cold and calculated.

After avoiding tougher measures from neighboring states, the government pursued an “intelligent” or “targeted” foreclosure. It wants to absorb the social, economic and psychological costs of social isolation and make the eventual return to normality more manageable.

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Bakeries may still be working, but beaches are almost deserted


My local florist, hardware store, delicatessen, bakery and toy store are always at the service of customers. Posters on the door and tape on the floor encourage people to give themselves space. The staff of the caisses wear surgical gloves.

Only companies that need to touch, such as hairdressers, beauticians and brothels, have been forced to stop their activities.

Schools, nurseries and universities are closed until at least April 28.

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Child care centers are largely closed, except for workers in key occupations


Cannabis bars, restaurants and cafes are closed, although they appear to be a roaring takeout business.

“We think we have a cool head,” said Dr. Louise van Schaik of the Clingendael Institute for International Relations. “We don’t want to overreact, lock everyone up in their homes. And it is easier to separate the generations here, because grandfather and grandmother do not live at home with their children. “

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Media captionDutch Prime Minister tells nation not to shake hands –

People have been advised to stay at home, but you can go out if you can’t work from home or if you have to shop for groceries or fresh air, as long as you keep a social distance of 1.5 m (5 ft).

It is useful that the Dutch seem to be largely compliant. A survey suggested that 99% of people kept their distance and 93% stayed at home as much as possible.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte described the Netherlands as an “adult country”. “What I hear around me is that people are happy to be treated like adults, not children,” he said on Friday.

Sometimes this lock seems invisible. The cities may be quieter, but the kids are still climbing on climbing frames and the teens are riding side by side.

How the Dutch went beyond the UK on collective immunity

When the United Kingdom’s chief science advisor revealed a plan to build broad population immunity in a matter of days, researchers revealed that it could make a quarter of a million lives, and the United Kingdom has changed course.

Allowing a deadly virus to spread through society to create a level of immunity implicitly means that people will die.

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Media captionDutch Minister of Health Bruno Bruins collapsed in Parliament because he was so exhausted in the face of the crisis

It was first adopted by the Dutch government, but was quickly repackaged as a useful by-product rather than a primary objective.

In a televised speech to the nation on March 16, Mr. Rutte described his approach.

“We can delay the spread of the virus and at the same time strengthen the immunity of the population in a controlled manner,” he said.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte March 16

Dutch government

The larger the group that acquires immunity, the lower the chance that the virus will jump to vulnerable older adults or people with underlying health conditions.

“We need to realize that building group immunity can take months or more, and in the meantime, we need to protect those most at risk as much as possible. “

Professor Claes de Vreese of the University of Amsterdam believes that the British government has not put in place measures for such a policy. “It left people hanging around and feeling like they were part of a weird social experiment,” he said.

Can this work?

The Dutch public health agency RIVM has launched a study to see how effective the antibodies created when people are exposed remain effective in preventing re-infection.

“It’s a bit like creating your own internal vaccine, by being exposed to it and then letting your body naturally generate these antibodies, to transform into a vaccination that does not yet exist,” said Professor Aura Timen of RIVM at the BBC.

She noted that they were still doing everything they could to slow down the Covid-19 transmission rate to “smooth out that curve.”

Netherlands: death of Covid-19

The problem is that the death toll in the Netherlands seems relatively high for a population of 17.2 million.

“We have a good reporting system for those infected, hospitalized, but also for deaths,” says Professor Timen.

Reality sets in as deaths increase

The Netherlands is now struggling to increase its hospital capacity, with the peak of the crisis expected in two weeks and deaths as high as 175 in a 24-hour period. Some 1,650 people have died since the start of the crisis.

Some patients have been transferred to Germany to free beds and the Ahoy Rotterdam concert hall, which was to host Eurovision 2020, will become an emergency facility.

It is planned to quadruple the number of tests and health workers not directly involved in the treatment of patients with coronavirus will also be screened.

But there have also been setbacks.

When a million masks shipped from China were found to be defective, the government had to order an urgent recall.

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Laurie Schram

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Space Fantastic artist Laurie Schram leads a team of volunteers sewing masks


There is a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), so Delft students are working to transform swimming snorkels into surgical masks and local artist Space Fantastic collects tissue donations and leads a legion of sewing volunteers frantically masks for those on the front line.

How the Dutch enraged the Italians

The Dutch are largely pro-European, so when a letter from prominent Italians to a German newspaper condemned them for “a lack of ethics and solidarity in every respect”, the words stung.

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Twitter

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Italian letter published in German newspaper condemns Dutch lack of solidarity and ethics


The Netherlands and Germany led the opposition to the debt burden of the southern states by issuing “coronabonds”.

Both countries pay more in the EU than they leave, but this “arrogance,” an arrogant Dutch approach, was destined to backfire, said global health professor Remco van de Pas. University of Maastricht.

In addition, it is considered self-destructive.

“If the whole south collapses, the rich north ceases to exist,” as former President of the Dutch National Bank Nout Wellink said bluntly.

The Dutch depend on other EU countries to buy their exports, says Professor Claes de Vreese.

“We have a common interest that bounces back in economic terms in a way that keeps the union and the euro in a strong position. “

Then came an admission from the Dutch finance minister. Yes, the initial response from the Netherlands lacked empathy.

Dutch Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra

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We weren’t empathetic enough, to the point that it increased resistance. We failed to convey what we want to do

Prime Minister Rutte proposed an EU emergency fund to cover the immediate medical costs of the crisis, with contributions from member states. “It would not be a loan or a guarantee, but a gift to those who need it. “

Their hand was forced.

“The Dutch have benefited enormously from the European Union, its openness to the labor market and its mobility,” said Dr. van de Pas.

But the idea of ​​a smart lock, driven by evidence and numbers, is very different from the stricter approach in neighboring Belgium, where deaths are also high.

For Dr. van de Pas, this is a cold and calculated Dutch approach, which can perhaps only work in an individualistic society accustomed to a non-interventionist medical culture, from the cradle to the grave.

If collective immunity, as modified, can potentially mitigate the effects of the epidemic, it should be accepted by a substantial part of the population.

The concern is that the Dutch approach may be based more on aspiration than on real intelligence, and that the Dutch “smart lock” does not immunize the country.

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