Back to the Future?

Today the way back has been taken. The curfew ends, terraces open again. The general feeling is that the Dutch government no longer feels itself in a position to bring the necessity of the COVID measures convincingly to the fore. I show a few numbers in fig. 1.

Fig. 1 NL: the last 15 weeks

The black line indicates (again) the number of deaths per million inhabitants per day. That number shows a decreasing trend from January 15, 2021 onward. As such, the decision to partially return to a normal situation appears justifiable. But there is one more line in the graph, the red one. It gives the number of registered new infections per day per hundred million inhabitants. If the black line is higher than the red line, the percentage of deaths per registered infection is higher than 1%, if it is lower, then that percentage is also lower than 1%.

For those who expect that there must be a more or less fixed relationship between the numbers of infections and the numbers of deaths, figure 1 is an enigma. A possible explanation is that on 9 January a start was made with vaccinations, and that the choice was made to begin with the vulnerable and the elderly. If, in the meantime, this is being perceived as a signal for young people to ignore the rules and thus to increase the numbers of infections, it could provide an explanation for the image and also for the government’s decision to go back.

One problem is, however, that hospitals and IC beds are now filling up with young people. Of these, a much smaller percentage dies, but a larger percentage becomes seriously ill (and then often chronically). Sure enough, the numbers of COVID patients in the hospitals and IC beds (not shown in Fig. 1) continue to rise with the red line. Urgent regular care is now being displaced again.

It will take another 15 weeks until everyone can be vaccinated in the Netherlands. This means that, with the COVID policy now implemented, we will linger at the limits of what society can handle for another two months.

It remains remarkable that I do not really know how these limits work, perhaps because I neither do know what direction the incumbent Dutch moral compass is pointing to (at the moment).