Coronavirus: the Netherlands’ fight strategy, without containment, is controversial

Prime Minister Mark Rutte still defends the policy of “herd immunity”. Neighboring countries are worried.

Within European countries , the Netherlands stands out in the fight against the pandemic due to the coronavirus: like Sweden and, to a much lesser extent now, the United Kingdom, they still refuse to consider the compulsory confinement in force, particularly in France and Italy. The country is sticking to the theory of collective immunity.

If British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is revising this notion that the virus should be allowed to spread among the population, by protecting the most vulnerable groups, however, his Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte, still defends the idea that once a large part of the population has been affected by the infectious agent, they will be immune. While confinement would, on the contrary, prevent immunization and promote the return, later in the year, of the virus.

In an unusual televised intervention, Mr. Rutte said, Monday, March 16, that “a large part” of the Dutch population would be affected, but that there was no question of decreeing total containment, which would risk “immediately” reviving the virus as soon as the measure is no longer in force. A version repeated during a parliamentary debate, in The Hague, by the Minister of Health, Bruno Bruins, before he was the victim, Wednesday, of a malaise due, he explained, to an excess of fatigue.

“Completely unacceptable”

“Immunity is not a strategy, but just a consequence of what we want to do, in a country that matters a very high population density and proportionately fewer intensive care beds than others, ” said a diplomat. He maintains that his country’s policy is, in the end, quite similar to that of his neighbors, without mentioning the fact that the Dutch healthcare system has been greatly rationalized and does not always have the necessary infrastructure. Jaap van Dissel, director of the National Institute of Public Health (RIVE), maintains, in any case, that “the group of immune people forms a shield for more fragile people” .

This is not the opinion of Belgian specialists, who believe that the Dutch approach jeopardizes the efforts made in neighboring countries and the European Union in general. Collective immunity is “completely unacceptable”, judges Dr Yves Coppieters, epidemiologist at the Free University of Brussels, interviewed by La Libre Belgique . He doesn’t deny, however, that containment may limit natural immunity, but he does point out that it at least allows hospital systems to best handle the most difficult cases.