The Dutch healthcare system scrambled to add intensive care beds for COVID-19 patients as the country registered a record weekly number of new infections on Tuesday.
Although hospitals remain under extreme stress, scrapping routine procedures and planned care, the weekly infection figures reported by the National Institute for Health (RIVM) did show signs of stabilisation, rising just one percent from the week before to 155,152.
The impact of new lockdown measures ordered by Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government on Friday are not yet reflected in the weekly numbers, as they only went into effect on Sunday.
The new measures include the closure of bars, restaurants, and most stores from 5 pm to 5 am, as well as work-from-home instructions and mask-wearing in secondary schools.
Overall, there were fewer than 100 unoccupied intensive care beds in the Netherlands on Tuesday, with 595 taken by COVID-19 patients and another 500 by patients with other illnesses.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
With ICU admissions running at more than 40 per day over the past week, hospitals are trying to restore the peak capacity of 1,350 ICU beds achieved during the initial COVID-19 wave in April 2020.
A third of hospitals in the country have stopped offering care that can be planned in advance and almost a third have said they cannot always perform even critical surgeries that can be planned in advance, the Netherlands' Care Authority (NZa) said on Tuesday, including some cancer and heart surgeries.