Dutch weigh options to slow rising COVID-19 infections among children

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AMSTERDAM, Nov 18 (Reuters) – Virologists in the Netherlands have proposed extending holidays over Christmas to slow a surge in COVID-19 cases among children that has forced half of schools nationwide to send classes home.

The National Institute for Health (RIVM) this week reported a record of over 110,000 cases through Nov. 16, an increase of 44% from the week before. The strongest rise was among children aged 4-12.

Infections among children of primary school age, five to nine, jumped almost 85% and rose 76% among children aged 10-14.

“Keeping primary schools closed for longer is an effective way to keep the virus under control,” immunologist Ger Rijkers told the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper. “Children are virus factories and infect adults as well as each other.”

Not all experts say closing schools is the best option but Marion Koopmans, a virologist and member of the country’s leading COVID-19 advisory board, told the paper “we need to consider other measures” if rates don’t fall.

All 12 Dutch provinces were expected to be dark red – the highest alert level – for the first time on a weekly chart published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Thursday.

With nearly 85% of adults fully vaccinated, over 20,000 new coronavirus cases were registered for two successive days this week, the highest so far, leading to a shortage of COVID-19 tests at health centres.

The latest wave began after the government ended social distancing and other measures in September, a decision that has since been reversed.

Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s proposal to exclude the non-vaccinated from a pass for indoor events has faced opposition in parliament.

Rutte’s government has reintroduced protective mask-wearing in stores and reimposed a partial lockdown, closing bars and restaurants after 8 p.m. The government will discuss new measures on Friday.

Photo – A GGD employee carries out a corona test in a test street, Pijnacker, Netherlands. EPA-EFE/RAMON VAN FLYMEN

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