Quarantine rules for schools must change, ICU expert says as pandemic enters new phase
Quarantine rules for schools in the Netherlands must change, or the more contagious but less severe Omicron variant of the coronavirus will leave more children stuck at home, says the intensive care doctor and head of the care association intensive NCIV Diederik Gommers at BNR. Hans Kluge, director for Europe at the World Health Organization (WHO), thinks Omicron could signal that Europe is approaching a “pandemic endgame”, reports NOS.
The current quarantine rule for primary and secondary education is that an entire class must be quarantined if there are three or more coronavirus infections. With the Omicron variant spreading like wildfire across the Netherlands, this rule resulted in the quarantine of around a quarter of primary school pupils last week.
“The intention is that as many children as possible can be in school for as long as possible, but that’s not feasible under the current rules,” Gommers told the broadcaster. He stressed that it is essential that children go to school as much as possible so as not to fall behind in their learning. “We’ve come up with a plan for this, but it doesn’t seem to be working, so a new proposal needs to be made so that the children aren’t sent home every time.”
The Omicron variant is more contagious than the previously dominant Delta variant and as a result the number of daily infections in the Netherlands has been skyrocketing for weeks. But because Omicron causes less severe symptoms than Delta, the strain on health care remains limited relative to the number of infections.
According to WHO’s Kluge, Omicron has moved the pandemic into a new phase. “Once Omicron is gone, there will be a period of widespread immunity for several weeks and several months,” he told AFP. “It is possible that the region is heading towards a pandemic endgame.”
Kluge expects around 60% of Europeans to have been infected with Omicron by March. This, combined with vaccinations, will lead to widespread immunity. Due to seasonal influences, there will also be less susceptibility to the virus.
“We expect a period of calm before the return of Covid-19 by the end of the year,” he said. Then the coronavirus will likely be endemic and manageable, like the flu, he expects. It did, however, temper expectations a bit. “The virus has surprised us more than once, so we have to be careful.”