AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Dutch healthcare system scrambled to add intensive care beds for COVID-19 patients as the country registered a record weekly number of new infections on Tuesday.
Although hospitals remain under extreme stress, scrapping routine procedures and planned care, the weekly infection figures reported by the National Institute for Health (RIVM) did show signs of stabilisation, rising just 1% from the week before to 155,152. The impact of new lockdown measures ordered by Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government on Friday are not yet reflected in the weekly numbers, as they only went into effect on Sunday.
The new measures include the closure of bars, restaurants and most stores from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., as well as work-from-home instructions and mask-wearing in secondary schools. Overall, there were fewer than 100 unoccupied intensive care beds in the Netherlands on Tuesday, with 595 taken by COVID-19 patients and another 500 by patients with other illnesses.
With ICU admissions running at more than 40 per day over the past week, hospitals are trying to restore the peak capacity of 1,350 ICU beds achieved during the initial COVID-19 wave in April 2020. A third of hospitals in the country have stopped offering care that can be planned in advance and almost a third have said they cannot always perform even critical surgeries that can be planned in advance, the Netherlands’ Care Authority (NZa) said on Tuesday, including some cancer and heart surgeries.