Dutch COVID-19 cases hit new weekly peak in second wave

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Netherlands reported on Tuesday its highest number of new coronavirus infections in any week since the pandemic began, following a 60% rise in new cases over the past seven days.

FILE PHOTO: People with and without masks walk at the Red Light District, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Amsterdam, Netherlands August 5, 2020. REUTERS/Eva Plevier

The 13,471 new infections reported by the National Institute for Health (RIVM) were part of a European surge that began shortly after summer vacations ended.

“We can now see the second wave,” the agency’s head, Jaap van Dissel, said in testimony before a parliamentary panel.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced modest new measures to slow the spread of the disease on Sunday, including closing bars after 1 a.m. and banning gatherings of more than 50 people.

But he said that only renewed public adherence to social distancing rules could change the path of the outbreak.

“We must get the feeling of urgency back,” Rutte said.

The RIVM data on Tuesday showed that, in cases where the source of infection can be traced, people in the Netherlands are most often infected by family members or at work.

But few cases are successfully traced. Health workers say those infected are reluctant to disclose whom they may have been in contact with.

According to the RIVM data, people aged 15-30 were the group most likely to become infected in the past week, people over 50 were the most likely to be admitted to hospital, and people over 70 made up most deaths.

Schools in the Netherlands have been open since late August.

Last week, the Health Ministry acknowledged that testing capacity was at its limits and began giving preferential access to teachers.

Social distancing is the core of Dutch coronavirus policy, with masks required only on public transportation.

Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus was fined 390 euros ($458) on Sept. 18 after photos emerged of him failing to properly distance from guests at his wedding.

($1 = 0.8511 euros)

Reporting by Toby Sterling, Editing by Gareth Jones and Timothy Heritage