Favorable scenarios were discussed in the OMT meeting on 17 December. “We’ve seen about twenty different scenarios,” Bonten said. “But you choose a very bad scenario for your policy, because you have to prepare for that.”
Another factor is that the Netherlands was in bad shape. “The hospitals were still full at the time. Few people had had a booster and we had incredibly little knowledge about what was going to happen. Based on that, we said: we need to buy some time.” In other countries the need was less, according to Bonten, because in the rest of Europe they had made much more progress with boosting.
According to the model, hospital admissions should now start to rise again, but that has still not happened – two weeks after the number of infections started rising again. According to Ten Bosch, this is because omikron in the Netherlands is hardly circulated among people over sixty. As soon as that happens, hospital admissions will also increase. “That increase is yet to come,” said Ten Bosch.
Because no one knows how quickly that will go, both think it is wise not to relax everything all at once. “We have let go of everything twice before. And that did not go well twice,” said Bonten, referring to the relaxation of last summer and September. LUMC epidemiologist Frits Rosendaal agrees with him. “We need to see what these relaxations do first.”
But wasn’t the lockdown a bit exaggerated? “Whether we would have gone for a lockdown with the current knowledge at that time, I don’t know,” says OMT member Marc Bonten. Yet he still stands behind the advice from then. “Due to the fact that few had boosted yet, we would have recommended major measures anyway. We wanted to buy time to boost, reduce hospital occupancy and collect knowledge. That has happened.”
Rosendaal and Ten Bosch, who are not in the OMT, also find the lockdown defensible. “I have often thought in previous waves: shouldn’t we have intervened a little earlier? So I’m glad we acted as a precaution this time,” said Rosendaal.
Ten Bosch thinks the same way: “Even if omikron is 50 percent less pathogenic, according to the prognosis, the care could not handle it. So it was a logical decision.” Ten Bosch cannot say whether with the knowledge of now the evening lockdown of the time would have been sufficient not to overload care. “That’s hard to say, you’ll have to remodel that.”