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Outbreak team: Keep partial work from home; Testing for access can be ended

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The Outbreak Management Team (OMT) has advised the Cabinet to continue advising people to work from home at least part of the time. The OMT said the advice should be maintained at least for the time being, as should rules about wearing face masks on public transportation.

The group of experts said there was potentially an opportunity to stop mandatory coronavirus testing to access large indoor events, and that there was limited benefit to testing in advance of travel. However, they also said that other basic measures and “generic advice” against the coronavirus should also remain in force for a while.

The recent relaxation of the corona measures led to a resurgence of infections at the end of February and the beginning of March. “The OMT wants to clearly indicate that the infection pressure due to coronavirus is currently high and that it is not clear whether a peak has already been reached,” the brief from the OMT stated.

The rising number of infections is expected to lead to a “relatively limited” increase in hospital admissions, but no extra pressure is expected in the intensive care unit for the time being. However, the OMT emphasized that the forecast models for the coming period offer different conclusions, and thus there is “no absolute certainty.”

Workers are currently advised to work from home half of the time and the other half at the office. Sources close to the Cabinet reported last week that the Cabinet wants to put an end to this advice. A final decision will be made on Tuesday.

The advice to stay at home in the event of a positive self-test should continue, and quarantine rules for close personal contacts, like family members, should also remain, the OMT said. The advice to go into quarantine still applies to people who have not had a booster shot and did not recently test positive for the coronavirus. Health Minister Ernst Kuipers previously worried that society could be disrupted if too many people have to isolate at home.

Testing for access can possibly stop

Cabinet sources also said last week that the country’s political leaders want to eliminate the mandatory use of face masks in public transportation vehicles, and to also stop the requirement that everyone get tested for the coronavirus infection before being allowed to attend larger indoor events.

The OMT “may agree” with the latter. The measure provides only a limited added value at the moment, the experts said. They also believe that it is no longer necessary for students to use self-tests twice a week as a precaution. However, enough self-tests should remain available to encourage testing in the event symptoms of Covid-19 arise.

The OMT also said that it is still useful for people to wear face masks on public transportation when the number of daily coronavirus infections is high. They said it helps protect vulnerable people, while allowing them to continue to travel safely on buses, trains and trams.

Final decisions now rest with the Cabinet, the OMT stated. Health Minister Ernst Kuipers will announce any changes to the country’s coronavirus policy during a press briefing on Tuesday.

Testing for travel not currently necessary, OMT advised

The OMT also argued that testing for travel and the digital Covid passport has no added value in the current fight against coronavirus. They wrote that the current measures are only being observed to a limited extent and are therefore not very effective. Even if the rules are followed, there will be a “limited effect” for travelers.

For vulnerable travelers, the advice remains to continue to wear a face mask. The OMT also advised that travelers take a self-test on the day they arrive at their destination, and five days afterwards. They said that traveling increases the risk of becoming infected.

The rules for traveling during the coronavirus pandemic differ per country. In the European Union, the Digital Covid Certificate will continue to apply. Anyone with the European DCC can travel freely until 1 July 2023. A person can get a DCC if they have been fully vaccinated in line with booster shot requirements, have recently recovered from the coronavirus infection, or have had a recent negative test result.

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