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Netherlands Herd Immunity Strategy – A Smart or Stupid Move?

The Netherlands has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. But COVID-19 is threatening its efficiency.
Netherlands Herd Immunity Strategy - A Smart or Stupid Move?

The total COVID-19 cases around the world continue to rise ever since it began early this year. Around the world, it has already reached more than two million and counting.

The majority of countries around the world are already practicing social distancing. Everyone should stay at home to help contain the spread of the virus. But it’s a different story in the Netherlands.

Instead of staying away from each other, Dutch people did not bother about social distancing. This strategy, called herd immunity, aims to protect those who are vulnerable from the disease.

How herd immunity works

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said it will adapt the concept of herd immunity. It works by allowing a certain number of people to contract the virus at a controlled pace. The “herd immunity” strategy can also help slow down the spread of the virus.

Rutte mentioned that they are planning to do this while waiting for the medicine to be available. The strategy aims to “slow down the virus… and… build up herd immunity in a controlled manner”.

The main goal is to control the spread of COVID-19 and protect the most vulnerable ones. This includes the elderly, young children, and those with pre-existing health issues.

Unlike in the US, Italy, and other parts of the world, the Netherlands did not initially declare a lockdown. Many establishments are closed, but a lot of people continued their lives like on a normal day. People continued to flock at public parks and coffee shops although the latter only accept takeouts.

Some business owners chose to open their stores despite the imposed lockdown. It helps people calm down amidst all the chaos going on. Still, business owners take extra precautions despite the ongoing threat of COVID-19. They ensure that all surfaces are kept clean and a limited number of customers inside the establishment.

Also the Dutch people supported the idea of herd immunity. After all, the Netherlands has one of the best healthcare systems in Europe and most likely in the world. Earlier, the UK government also adapted the herd immune strategy, but later decided to shut itself off from the world.

Is this strategy effective?

It is common knowledge that COVID-19 affects the elderly and with compromised immune systems. But based on statistics, COVID-19 doesn’t choose its victims.

So far, it has already affected people of all ages, both young and old. Not to mention that a lot of COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic.

Even those who have healthy lifestyles may be carriers of the virus without knowing it. Meaning, they carry the virus but they do not experience symptoms. That means some people might infect others unknowingly. People don’t know if the immunity happens after contracting the virus and how long that so-called immunity will last.

A few weeks ago, Rutte drew back on this strategy and imposed what they call a “lockdown light”. The Dutch government has imposed similar restrictions other European countries have done to manage the spread of COVID-19.

People are advised to work from home, educational institutions and other establishments are ordered closed as well. There is an ongoing travel ban albeit with exemptions. Unfortunately, the herd immunity which was initially imposed by the national government did not seem to work.

COVID-19’s potentially disastrous impact on the Dutch healthcare system

Netherlands Herd Immunity Strategy - A Smart or Stupid Move?

As of April 16, there are already more than 28,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 3,000 deaths. Somehow, the good news is that it did not seem to wreak havoc in its healthcare systems like what happened in Italy and Spain.

However, the mortality rates are still higher than its neighbor, Germany. The Netherlands reported 60 percent higher death rates than Germany. Unlike the latter, the former haven’t done mass testing. This means we may never know the real numbers unless mass testing will be implemented.

Both countries have one of the highest standards in terms of healthcare. But as weeks go by, it seems that the Netherlands might face ICU shortages due to the steady rise of cases. Its neighbor, Germany, already mentioned that they are prepared to accept Dutch patients with COVID-19. There are already some Dutch patients who were transferred to a hospital in Germany due to COVID-19.

Conclusion

All countries around the world have their ways to deal with the ongoing pandemic. Some declared total lockdown and travel bans.

Meanwhile, some countries like the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK adopted the herd immunity strategy. While it may have potential, it did backfire later on.

One thing is for sure: no one is prepared for COVID-19. Even first world countries like Italy and the US got overwhelmed with hundreds and even thousands of deaths a day. It seems that we are only starting and have a long way to go before we finally fight off the virus.

In the meantime, we should have good hygiene and observe physical distancing. Do not go outside unless necessary. More importantly, we should our front liners and each other and hope all of this shall soon pass.

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