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RIVM: ‘If curfew and visiting arrangements had no effect, we would now be in a steep line’

With all the legal troubles this week around curfew, the corona pandemic went its own way. And that is not necessarily reassuring. Article link

The NOS spoke about this with Jaap van Dissel, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Control (CIB) of the RIVM and Jacco Wallinga, lead model of the RIVM.

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The latest weekly figures showed on Tuesday that the number of infections, the percentage of positive tests and the R-number go up, as does the number of hospital admissions. Is this the turning point at which the decline in the number of infections turns into an increase due to the British variant?

Wallinga: “That could be, we do indeed see that the clear decrease that we saw in previous weeks has stagnated in recent days. Whether it is a turning point is only known for sure if there is a very clear increase. We do not see that yet. Article link

The R -numbers that we calculate are for people who had their first day of illness 14 days ago. We don’t have them for the current period yet. “

Your modeling has been criticized. Article link

The speed with which the British variant takes over the outbreak has been overestimated, according to critics. According to some consciously, to make stricter measures such as curfews acceptable.

Wallinga: “Our model is based quite firmly on the data flows from the germ surveillance. We also explain how we extrapolate that data, and we do that no differently than other countries. We also indicate that the model is sensitive to the way in which you extrapolate. What we reported is what comes out of the modeling. If you look at what data was available when, you can check it all out. “

And the accusation that you deliberately overestimate the influence of the British variant?

Wallinga: “When people say that there is intent, they make it very complex. Then we should first fake data. We try to clearly indicate in the model from which sources the data come and how those data sources come from. This can be read in the graphs that Jaap van Dissel shows in the Lower House briefings. Moreover, in recent weeks our main message was how uncertain it all is. It is not so much about the line in our modeling, but because of the enormous margin of uncertainty surrounding it. It is greater than ever because of that British variant.

Has that been communicated clearly enough?

Wallinga: “Our message is that uncertainty and the considerable chance that we end up in situations that you do not want. It is very difficult to bring that uncertainty into the limelight. But it is the core of our message, it is not exactly like this. and so unwrapping. ”And I continue to boldly proclaim that uncertainty.”

Van Dissel: “Also look at the modeling in other countries, for example Denmark. Their latest estimate was that the spread of the British variant is 67 percent faster than that of the classic variant. That is much more pessimistic than our estimate of 37 percent faster. spread.”

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The RIVM website will soon be listing not only the cumulative numbers of infections, but also the weekly numbers from the germ surveillance.

Is more clear about the influence of curfew and the limitation of visiting hours to one person? Article link

The 100th OMT advice states that it is more likely that there is an effect than no effect, but I think that is mainly peasant logic.

Van Dissel: “I think it is. In the OMT meeting of 19 February we get new data, but looking at the forecast and the current figures, you see that the actual numbers of today can best be explained with the scenario that assumes an effect of both measures If Jacco Wallinga calculates this – because for the sake of clarity: we have not included that in the model beforehand – you will find an effect of about 10 percent. percent that we have mentioned on the basis of the scientific literature. But it is too early for a definitive verdict. “

Wallinga: “In the week that the visiting schedule and the curfew came into effect, we see a slight decrease in the reproduction number of the British variant. Everything indicates that there is an effect. Just as we expected. But if that reproduction number rises again this week then dilutes the strength of this evidence for an effect. “

But aren’t all kinds of other factors involved?

Van Dissel: “Certainly. It is possible that the curfew has also improved the follow-up of other measures. Then you also have a desired effect. Ultimately, it concerns the bundle of measures. We cannot separate them and the unique effect for each measure But if the curfew and the visitation schedule had had no effect at all, then, according to the forecast, we were now in a fairly steep line up. We had already noticed that.

Two weeks ago you said that due to the faster spread, the British variant might help prevent the South African variant from settling here. This now constitutes 1.8 percent of all infections compared to 0.4 a week earlier. Is it also possible the other way around, that the South African variant is replacing the British?

Wallinga: “It is still unclear how this will turn out. We have very little information about the South African variant. Also from other countries. We estimated the R-number to be slightly higher than that of the British variant, but with a large margin of uncertainty. Article link

The South African variant is still too rare in the Netherlands to have more certainty about it. “

There are examples of people who were fully or partially vaccinated and who nevertheless infected others. What’s up with that?

Van Dissel: “It is very important to clarify the timeline. When exactly were these people vaccinated? When did they become infected again and did they transmit the virus? In that outbreak in the nursing home in Amersfoort, people had had one shot. In Osnabrück it is true that two, but the infections were detected there shortly after the second vaccination, which means that the infection was before that second injection. “

“After all, the vaccination only works fully two weeks after the second shot. Against disease, not against contracting the virus. This coughing can happen to anyone, so to speak. But thanks to the vaccination, your own immune system dissolves it quickly and you become not sick. So here the devil is really in the details. “

Mr Van Dissel, you had to show up headlong in court on Tuesday evening. Article link

The point was whether the curfew had to be lifted immediately, as the Hague court had ordered after a complaint from the Virus Truth action group, or whether the appeal lodged by the State had suspensive effect. How was that?

Van Dissel: “As an expert witness, I was asked to explain the urgency and impact of that curfew. I did this on the basis of the same graphs and data that we have now discussed and that I show in the Lower House. And that was it. I have no opinion on the legal background of the case. “

Virus truth found your action in court to be proof that the matter was discussed in substance, while it should only concern that suspensive effect.

Van Dissel: “I noticed that the questions I received from Virus Truth were all substantive questions. That is nevertheless remarkable. They started for example about receptor binding, I can remember, these are questions that do not seem to me really linked to urgency. of the curfew. “

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