Dutch running short of COVID-19 tests as surge breaks records

FILE PHOTO: A member of medical staff takes a coronavirus test sample of a man in Bergschenhoek, Netherlands January 13, 2021. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch health authorities said on Wednesday they were running short of COVID-19 tests, as the Netherlands registered more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases for the second day in a row, the highest since the pandemic began.

“We are coming up against the maximum of our capacity,” said Jaap Eikelboom, head of COVID-19 operations at the National Public Health Service, in a statement.

The service said it was working to expand test capacity amid a new surge here that has caught health authorities and Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government off guard. Around 85% of the adult Dutch population is fully vaccinated tmsnrt.rs/3tUM8ta.

The National Institute for Health (RIVM) on Tuesday reported a record of more than 110,000 new cases in the week ended Nov. 16, an increase of 44% from the week before, with the strongest rise among children aged 4-12.

Hospital admissions are rising and several are curtailing regular care to accommodate COVID-19 patients.

The latest wave began shortly after the government ended social distancing and other measures in September — a decision that has been reversed as cases skyrocket.

Earlier this month Rutte’s government reintroduced masks in stores, and last weekend it reimposed a partial lockdown here, including closing bars and restaurants after 8 p.m. But the impact of those measures has not yet been seen in the daily numbers.

Parliament met with Rutte last night to debate whether to restrict access to indoor public venues to people who have a “corona pass” here showing they have been vaccinated or already recovered from an infection.

Politicians were sharply divided on the idea, with some arguing that it discriminates unfairly against the unvaccinated and others arguing that it may be necessary anyway as a matter of public health. No law has yet been proposed for a vote.

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