Below you will find the most important questions and answers categorised per topic. By clicking on a topic you will go directly to the questions and answers.

Information about education, public transport, sport and culture, employers and employees is available at government.nl

Questions regarding measures to prevent infection

What can I do to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus?

  • Wash your hands  often with soap and water
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow
  • Use paper tissues to blow your nose and discard them after use
  • Do not shake hands
  • Stay 1.5 metres (2 arms lengths) away from other people
  • Work from home as much as possible.

Are you ill?

  • Stay at home if you have mild cold-like symptoms, such as a sore throat, a runny nose, sneezing, a mild cough or a fever below 38 degrees Celsius
  • If you have a fever above 38 degrees Celsius or shortness of breath, you and anyone you live with should stay at home. If you feel better and have not had any symptoms for 24 hours, you can go outside again.

Avoid busy places and keep your distance

  • Make sure you can always keep 1.5 metres distance from others.
  • If this impossible, go somewhere else.

Why am I no longer allowed to shake hands?

Via hands, viruses such as the novel coronavirus spread quickly. Many people also (unconsciously) often touch their nose or mouth with their hands. By not shaking hands anymore, you reduce the chance of getting infected and infecting others with the novel coronavirus.

Why is it important to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly?

Viruses spread very easily via our hands. By washing your hands frequently and thoroughly you can reduce the chance of becoming ill, and also reduce the change of infecting others. Soap kills the virus by destroying the lipid layer that houses the virus. That is why washing your hands with soap is so effective.  See here tips for the best way to wash your hands.

Why the call up to work from home whenever possible?

The novel coronavirus spreads in places where people gather closely together. This could be at work, such as in an office, but also on public transport. If people work at home they don’t come into contact with others and don’t go to places where many people congregate at the same time. This helps to limit the spread of the virus.

Why should I sneeze or cough into my elbow, rather than my hands?

Viruses such as the novel coronavirus spread easily via hands. Many people touch (often unconsciously) their nose or mouth with their hands. By sneezing or coughing into your elbow you reduce the chance of becoming infected and infecting others with the novel coronavirus.

Can I still go grocery shopping?

Only shop for groceries if it is really necessary. If you do not have any symptoms such as a fever, a cough or a cold, you can do some grocery shopping. Go shopping on your own and maintain a distance of 1.5 meters from other people. This will reduce the chance of you infecting others with COVID-19 and of others infecting you.  Stay at home if you have any symptoms. Ask someone else to do your shopping.

May I still visit my parents and friends?

  • Stay at home as much as possible
    • Limit visitors to your home whenever possible (maximal 3 visitors)
    • Keep 1.5 meters distance from each other
  • Only go outside if it is really necessary
    • For work, if you are unable to work from home, for grocery shopping, for fresh air, or to do an errand for someone else.
  • Do not visit people over 70 years of age or people with vulnerable health
  • Certainly never visit anyone if you have any cold or flu symptoms

What is meant by social distancing, and why is it important?

By social distancing, you have less contact with others, or you keep a distance from others. This reduces the chance that you will infect each other.  Minimising contact with each other means the virus will spread more slowly.  Consequently, few people become infected and healthcare institutions don’t become overwhelmed. Examples include: working from home, or spreading working hours if working from home is not possible, staying at home with respiratory problems, and avoiding places where many people gather together.

Why do you have to keep your distance from others and why is meeting up in a group of 10 or more people prohibited?

Keeping your distance means that you keep 1.5 meters (2 arm lengths) distance from each other to protect yourself and others against infection with the coronavirus. Coughing and sneezing releases small droplets of the coronavirus into the air. People can breathe these droplets in and become infected. When you sneeze, these droplets rarely spread further than 1.5 meters. Keeping your distance and avoiding contact with others means that the novel coronavirus will not spread so easily.   

Is it safe to sing with a band, choir, or group?

There may be an increased risk of coronavirus spread if people sing in a group. This is under investigation. Until we know more, we discourage people to sing together.

Keep in mind that events and organised gatherings are prohibited (see government.nl). The general rules apply:

  • Stay at home if you have symptoms
  • Keep a 1,5 metre distance from others at all times

Can I become infected with the coronavirus by touching a contaminated surface or object?

The chance of getting coronavirus by touching a surface or handling an object, such as a post package or flowers, is very small. The chance becomes even smaller if you wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face with your hands. If the owner of the objects you have touched is ill, then wash your hands at the very first opportunity.

Contamination by a bacteria or virus from a surface is possible (1*). For coronaviruses that cause SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrom) is it uncertain whether surfaces play a role (2*).  In the meantime, research shows that the novel coronavirus can survive for some time on various materials (3, 4*). These researches were carried out in controlled and ideal circumstances. It is possible that the influences of weather and high air humidity result in fewer virus particles (4, 5*). The amount of virus that reaches a surface from an infected person will also differ considerably.

*The numbers are links to scientific articles on the transmissibility of coronavirus from contaminated surfaces.  

The main routes of infection remain contamination through droplets from sneezing/coughing or through the hands. Therefore, you should follow the existing hygiene advice and measures that apply to everyone.

Can someone who has had the coronavirus still infect other people?

No. If you feel better after 24 hours and have no more health complaints, you are cured. You no longer carry the virus and you can no longer infect others.

Can the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) also spread through the air?

As the virus is present in the nose, throat or lungs, it can be dispersed into the air through coughing or sneezing. The virus enters the air in the form of small droplets. These droplets don’t remain floating in the air, but descend quickly. The sicker a person is, the more virus he is likely to spread. There is no evidence that the virus can linger in the air for longer and thus spread in this way.

What is the difference between diffusion with droplets and aerosol?

Respiratory tract infections can spread through droplets or aerosols. Droplets are relatively large and heavy and descend quickly under the influence of gravity. This type of droplet spreads up to 1.5 metres.

By aerosols we mean microscopic particles that may be released during procedures in the Intensive Care unit. Because these particles are much smaller and lighter, they can spread much further and stay in the air longer.

Can the novel coronavirus also be spread through food?

This coronavirus has most likely spread to humans through an exotic animal in China. In Chinese markets, many different species of living animals can be found together in one place. The conditions in these markets make it easier for viruses to jump from one type of animal to another, and from animals to humans. The virus consequently spreads further through person-to-person contamination. Whether or not the animals play a role in the contamination in China is still under investigation. The source of the outbreak has not been found. We assume that in the Netherlands the virus is not able to spread from animals to humans, and also not through the food we consume here. Coronaviruses require a living organism, i.e. an animal or human, in order to survive and grow. This is not possible in food.

Questions about your personal health and the novel coronavirus

I have symptoms that are consistent with the novel coronavirus. What should I do?

Do you have symptoms of a cold or flu, such as a nose cold, sore throat, light cough?

Stay at home. Recuperate. Do not go shopping and do not allow visitors into your home. Let others do your shopping,  or arrange for it to be delivered. Arrange for someone to walk the dog. For household members without symptoms the same rules apply for everyone in the Netherlands. Only when you have had no symptoms for 24 hours may you leave your home.

People working in crucial sectors and critical processes are an exception; they only stay home if they themselves develop symptoms with a fever (discuss this with your employer if in doubt). Read more in the information letter ‘I have a cold, what now?’ and go to government.nl.

I think I am infected with the novel coronavirus. What should I do?

For everyone in the Netherlands: stay at home with symptoms such as a nose cold, cough, sore throat or fever.  These are mild symptoms. Avoid social contacts. Limit visits to vulnerable people.

Only call your GP if the symptoms worsen (a fever > 38 Celsius and difficulty breathing) and you require medical assistance. If you feel better and have not had any symptoms for 24 hours, you are cured. You can no longer infect others.

If you have cold or flu symptoms and a fever (above 38 degrees Celsius) and/or difficulty breathing?

Everyone should stay at home. Recuperate. Do not go shopping and do not receive visitors. All members of your household must also stay at home.  An exception here is that household members who have no symptoms may leave the house to do grocery shopping. Once everyone has had no symptoms for 24 hours, you may go outside.  Read more in the information letter ‘Fever with respiratory problems and/or breathing difficulties’.

When should you call your GP?

Call your GP if you have a fever (above 38 degrees Celsius) and difficulty breathing.

Do not go to your GP or to the hospital, instead call the GP or the medical centre (huisartsenpost). If you are experiencing severe symptoms, contact a doctor immediately.

Should I stay at home if a member of my household displays symptoms corresponding to the novel coronavirus?

You must stay at home if someone in your household has a cold or flu symptoms and a fever. Read more in the information letter ‘Fever with respiratory and breathing household members’.

You do not have to stay indoors if someone in your household only has symptoms of a cold and no fever.  Follow the general advice that currently applies in the Netherlands with respect to school and work (see govement.nl).  If a member of your household becomes seriously ill and develops a fever then everyone must stay at home. Read more in the information letter ‘I have a cold, what now?’.

How long should I stay at home recuperating with a fever and a cold?

People with respiratory problems and/or fever must stay at home. You may only go outside if you have had no symptoms for 24 hours. This means: no fever, no nose cold and no cough. Follow the general advice provided at present in the Netherlands over school and work. For more information visit ‘government.nl’.

Contact your GP by telephone if you require medical help, for example, if you have a high fever and have difficulty breathing.

Read more in the information letters ‘I have a cold, what now?’ and Fever with respiratory and/or breathing problems.

I have hay fever. Can I go outside?

In general, yes. If you have hay fever, you have the same symptoms every year at about the same time. You will be able to recognise the normal symptoms of hay fever. If in doubt or if the symptoms feel different, stay at home.

How fast can you recover from an infection?

This depends on the seriousness of the symptoms. People with mild symptoms recover faster (after a few days). People who are admitted to hospital usually take more time to recover (sometimes weeks).

How do you know if you are cured of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?

If you feel better and have had no health problems for 24 hours. This means: no fever, no nose cold and no cough.

Can you get the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) more than once?

It is not possible to say with certainty whether someone can contract the infection again. People who have only mild symptoms develop fewer antibodies. As a result, there is doubt as to whether people with mild complaints will build up sufficient immunity to the novel coronavirus and may be able to become infected and transmit it again. This is currently being investigated. Dutch policy is constantly being adjusted based on the latest insights.

Can someone transmit the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) if they have no symptoms?

The novel coronavirus is transmitted through coughing and sneezing. The virus gets into the air through small droplets. Other people can become infected when they inhale the droplets, or when the droplets enter their mouth, nose or eyes via their hands.  The sicker the person is, and the more the person coughs or sneezes, the more the virus can spread. There are indications that some people without symptoms can also be infectious. However, it is unclear to what extent they contribute to the total spread of the virus. Further research will provide more information about this.

What is meant by herd immunity?

Anyone who has had COVID-19 is usually immune to the virus afterwards. This means that this person can no longer become ill from the virus. The bigger the group that acquires immunity, the smaller the chance the virus has of spreading. This also reduces the chance that the virus reaches vulnerable people. Herd immunity builds a protective wall, as it were, around vulnerable people.

Can 5G spread the novel coronavirus, or cause COVID-19?

No. The virus is released by coughing and sneezing from the nose, throat or lungs. The virus gets into the air through small droplets.

There is absolutely no scientific evidence that 5G spreads the novel coronavirus, or causes COVID-19. The virus cannot spread via radio waves or mobile networks. Over time, COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has also spread in countries where there are no 5G networks.

Can I get infected by cigarette smoke from a COVID-19 patient?

There are probably as many virus particles in exhaled cigarette smoke as in normal exhaled breath. The chance of infection is therefore the same as in a non-smoker. Smokers may cough more than non-smokers. But people should keep 1.5 metres distance from each other at all times to prevent mutual contamination. People who smoke should be aware of increased risks. Smokers are more vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.

Can I have sex?

You can have sex with a steady partner. In the following situations, the advice is NOT to have sex:

  • You have (slight) complaints that may indicate the novel coronavirus (cold, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or fever). Are the complaints getting worse? Then contact your family doctor.
  • You have a proven coronavirus infection and are in isolation.
  • You are a roommate or partner of someone with a proven coronavirus infection or with (mild) complaints.

Can you kiss your partner?

You can kiss your partner. You can contract the novel coronavirus and pass it on through kissing. Does your partner have complaints linked to the novel coronavirus? Then do not kiss. The advice to keep 1.5 metres away from other people also means that you should not kiss other people. 

I am pregnant. Is there extra reason for concern?

No. There is no evidence that being pregnant increases a woman’s risk for getting COVID-19, or her risk of developing severe symptoms if she has the disease. There is also no evidence to suggest an increased risk of miscarriage or birth defects attributable to this virus. The currently available information indicates that the effects of infection with COVID-19 in a pregnant women are no different for the child and the mother than for other infectious diseases that cause a fever.

Can you breastfeed if you are (possibly) infected with the novel coronavirus?

Yes. Breastfeeding has many health benefits, which is why we encourage mothers to continue to breastfeed if they feel well enough. However, it is important that the mother washes her hands well and coughs in the elbow. Mothers who are too sick can try to pump breast milk and give it to their baby in another way. 

Questions about children and COVID-19

Why is the 1.5-m measure for young children less stringent?

This is because children play a smaller role in the spread of COVID-19 than adults. We know that there are few children with COVID-19 and that when children become ill, the disease is milder. Ongoing research suggests that the transmission of the virus from one child to another or from children to adults is less common. So going to school and playing outside is therefore possible.

Nevertheless, it is wise to limit contact between children from different groups, between children and parents and between parents themselves as much as possible. That is why the 1.5-meter measure should be applied as much as possible, especially between primary school pupils and teachers. It is also essential that children regularly wash their hands with soap and water, and cough and sneeze in the inside of the elbow.

Why do teachers have to keep their distance from others?

Adults play a more significant role in the spread of COVID-19 than children. We know that the transmission of the virus from one child to another or from children to adults is less common. However, children can be infected by adults. That is why the 1.5-metre measure should be applied as much as possible, especially between primary school pupils and teachers.

My child belongs to a risk group, can my child attend school, childcare and BSO?

Children with underlying health conditions do not seem to run a greater risk of a severe course of COVID-19 than healthy children, with the possible exception of children with severe obesity and or diabetes. In case of doubt, it is wise to consult with the attending physician (or paediatrician) and school management.

Can COVID-19 cause a severe inflammatory response in children?

Reports have been received from abroad about some children with a severe inflammatory response, suggesting a possible link to COVID-19.  These children presented with a fever, a skin rash and inflammation around the heart. The symptoms are similar to those seen in Kawasaki disease. Research will show whether there is a link to COVID-19.  As yet, this has not been proven.

My child has persistent cold symptoms / hay fever. Can he or she go to school / childcare / sports activities?

If your child has hay fever or a chronic cold every year, you will recognise the symptoms.  In that case, the child may go to school as usual. If you are uncertain whether the symptoms are different than usual, keep your child at home until the (new) symptoms go away.

My child’s school/ childcare facility does not want to accept my child’s attendance because he or she has persistent cold symptoms / hay fever. What should I do?

Have a talk with the school and explain that you recognise the symptoms as a chronic cold or hay fever, and that these symptoms are normal for your child. In that case, the child can go to school as usual. If there is any doubt, or if the symptoms change, the child must stay at home until the (new) symptoms go way or the familiar pattern of symptoms has returned to normal. If the conversation with the school or childcare facility does not have any results, please contact the local Municipal Public Health Service (GGD). The GGD will give advice in specific situations based on official guidance.

Questions about the treatment of COVID-19

Does paracetamol, ibuprofen or other medicine help against the novel coronavirus?

There is (as yet) no medication available to combat the novel coronavirus. Paracetamol and ibuprofen will not cure the virus, but can help to reduce complaints, such as fever, sore throat and malaise. There is no proof that the use of paracetamol or ibuprofen (or diclofenac or naproxen, so-called NSAIDs) will make the illness caused by the virus worse.  The preferred choice is paracetamol, because it has the fewest side-effects.

Does chloroquine work against the coronavirus?

There is no specific treatment available to combat the novel coronavirus. The treatment of severely ill people focuses on treating the symptoms. The doctors can, for example, provide oxygen to patients with breathing difficulties. Clinical studies are being carried out with various medicines, such as chloroquine, a medicine that is prescribed for malaria. There are some indications that chloroquine helps with the treatment of COVID-19, but this still needs to be scientifically verified (proven). Because of the risks of serious side effects, chloroquine is only used in the hospital and under strict conditions.

When will a vaccine become available for the novel coronavirus / COVID-19?

This is difficult to predict. Great efforts are being made in laboratories is various countries to find a vaccine for this novel coronavirus. Nevertheless, it will take some time before the vaccine is available, and it will certainly not become available within the coming months. Once a vaccine has been found, it will have to be tested to ensure that it won’t cause unacceptable side-effects.

Will the vaccine for tuberculosis help against the coronavirus?

There is (as yet) no evidence that the BCG (Bacille Calmette Guérin) vaccine that works against tuberculosis will also work against coronaviruses.  Research is due to start soon into the efficacy of the vaccine against COVID-19. At this moment, it is therefore not advisable to vaccinate vulnerable people and health workers with the BGC-vaccine.

Is there a treatment for COVID-19?

There are currently no registered medicines available to treat COVID-19. For patients who are admitted to hospital with COVID-19 with severe symptoms of the illness, drug treatment options are discussed based on currently available information. See the preliminary advice Drug Treatment options for patients with COVID-19 provided by the  Stichting Werkgroep Antibiotica Beleid (SWAB).

Will blood plasma from cured COVID-19 patients help against the novel coronavirus?

This is currently being investigated by the Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, together with the Sanquin Blood Bank and 15 other hospitals. According to South Korean doctors, two patients with severe symptoms were cured after being given blood plasma from cured corona patients. This is possible, because protective antibodies can often be found in your blood when you have recovered from an infection. We may be able to use antibodies as a treatment for other patients. However, the effectiveness of this method is as yet uncertain. The first results are expected in a few months time. 

How do calculations contribute in combatting the novel coronavirus?

To combat the outbreak of a virus, information is required in order to organise the necessary healthcare and to put the appropriate measures into place.  You need to know how many people are likely to become ill, how many will be hospitalised, and how many could die. We calculate very many different possibilities because there are so many uncertainties. This is called modelling. As an increasing amount of information is gathered, some possibilities will be disregarded. The remaining calculations provide a more reliable picture. The more we know about the virus and how it is spreading, the better the calculations will reflect the reality. Read more about modelling.

 

 

 

 

Questions about the Dutch approach

Herd immunity in the Dutch COVID-19 policy

The Dutch COVID-19 policy aims towards keeping the health system in operation while protecting vulnerable groups in society. The government of the Netherlands has taken far-reaching measures to prevent further spreading of the coronavirus. However, there is no measure yet that can make the virus disappear in the near future. Most people infected with the coronavirus recover. According to WHO, people show antibodies in their blood for at least a month after recovery. This means that in the Netherlands immunity against corona is being built up. This is not a goal in itself, but a result of the fact that the virus is present in the Netherlands. One of the effects is that gradually more people become immune to the virus, which will eventually lead to herd immunity, as is the case for other viral infections. As we are dealing with a newly emerged virus, WHO correctly states that there is no certainty about the development of immunity against COVID-19, or about how long this immunity will last. More information about this will become available soon. The Netherlands will keep on adapting its policy, based on the latest findings.

RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment las launched a study on coronavirus herd immunity.

What measures are in place in the Netherlands to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus?

RIVM has guidelines and scenarios for responding to an epidemic based on scientific insights. These documents are drawn up to ensure that the Netherlands is as prepared as possible for any outbreaks of serious diseases. View all measures to combat the novel coronavirus in the Netherlands on government.nl.

What basic principles are used by RIVM in drafting its advisory reports for the response to the novel coronavirus?

In the Netherlands, one of our main priorities is to ensure that the hospitals, nursing homes and home care services are not overwhelmed, so there is always enough capacity in our healthcare system. In addition, we want to protect vulnerable groups. Various approaches have been considered for how our country can respond to the spread of the virus. Read more about these scenarios.

People keep referring to the ‘three scenarios for the coronavirus response in the Netherlands’; what are they?

Various approaches have been considered for how our country can respond to the spread of the virus. These scenarios vary from complete nation-wide lockdown to the other extreme: allowing the virus to run its course. Read more about these scenarios.

What is a 'targeted lock-down'?

A targeted lock-down is a measure aimed at keeping as many people as possible at home. If you have health problems, you should stay at home until you are symptom-free for 24 hours. If you have more severe symptoms, such as a fever, coughing or difficulty with breathing, the whole family / all housemates should stay at home as a precaution. With a total lock-down, both social and economic life is at a standstill, and the freedom of movement of all residents is limited. Read more about staying at home on government.nl.

Why is it inadvisable to introduce a lock-down in the Netherlands?

A complete ban on going outdoors is not always the best solution. Indeed, the novel coronavirus will not be able to spread as quickly, but no one will be able to build up immunity against the disease either. Since the disease is spread globally, there is a good chance that, after lifting a lock-down, many people will become ill at the same time in a short period. This will cause a peak load of infections. With a lock-down, you mainly postpone the moment that many people become ill at the same time, and we do not want that. Read more about the three scenarios to combat the spread in our country.

Will the measures to close schools, bars,  restaurants and sport clubs work?

The novel coronavirus is spreading from human to human. If there are fewer places where many people gather, the disease can spread less rapidly. For this reason, RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment)  previously advised the cancellation of  major events. Closing down other venues such as bars, restaurants and sport clubs further reduces the chance of the virus being transmitted.

Is there sufficient capacity in Dutch hospitals?

The measures introduced on  12 and 15 March aim to prevent the spread of the disease. These measures can help to maintain sufficient capacity in the hospitals. If many patients become ill at the same time, there may not be enough capacity to admit seriously ill patients to the intensive care unit.

When should someone in the Netherlands be admitted to Intensive Care?

People are admitted to Intensive Care if they require medical assistance to help them breathe. Importantly here: the older you are, the more serious the repercussions for your health. Before admitting a patient to Intensive Care, doctors will discuss their survival chances with them and the expected quality of life after ventilation in an Intensive Care unit. Following a consultation with their doctor, some patients may choose not to receive treatment in hospital or to be placed on a ventilator.

How many people in the Netherlands have recovered from COVID-19?

This is currently unknown. There is an obligation to report all cases of people who have recovered from this illness. If someone has had no symptoms for 24 hours, they are considered cured.

Questions about the test

Questions

Can I use a rapid diagnostic test to test myself?

RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment is researching COVID-19 rapid diagnostic tests that are being offered for home use or by third parties at a specific location. These are not self-tests, but rapid diagnostic tests (‘sneltesten’ in Dutch). So far, the quality of these rapid tests has been insufficient to test on individual patients or to use at home.  The results are not reliable. Users may become unnecessarily worried, or they may be wrongly reassured. The Health and Youth Care Inspectorate (IGJ) has also published a report about this. Tests that can be used at home to check whether you are infected with a disease are prohibited if they have not first been assessed by a notified body.  More info at IGJ. The World Health Organization also discourages the use of rapid diagnostic tests.

Which people will be tested?

Patients from vulnerable groups will be tested if it considered important for their treatment or care.

Also, patients with symptoms of a coronavirus infection will be tested if they become so ill that they require hospitalisation.

Healthcare workers, such as GPs, nursing home employees, and home care workers, will also be tested if they have symptoms that indicate a coronavirus infection and are essential in providing healthcare.

From 11 May, people working in a contact profession can also have themselves tested if they have symptoms that could indicate the novel coronavirus.

From 18 May, the testing policy was expanded to include informal carers, volunteers working in palliative care, and care providers funded by a personal budget (PGB).  Additional tests can also be arranged for visitors to the 25 nursing homes that have been participating in the Visiting Scheme pilot project since 11 May.   From June on, it will be possible to test everyone in the Netherlands who has symptoms that could indicate the novel coronavirus. If the test shows that you are infected with the novel coronavirus, the Municipal Public Health Service (GGD) will carry out intensive source and contact tracing.

When will someone be tested? 

If people have symptoms that could indicate COVID-19, they should stay home until they have no symptoms for at least 24 hours. The doctor or GP can determine whether a test contributes to a patient’s treatment or care. If possible, the GP can test the patient himself or consult with the Municipal Public Health Service (GGD). Healthcare workers with symptoms that could indicate the novel coronavirus can be tested by the GGD. The GGD will follow the RIVM guidelines.

Are alternative testing methods being investigated?

All around the world, there is a shortage of certain laboratory materials needed for the test. For that reason, RIVM is working with national and international laboratories to find different testing methods that require other laboratory materials. Besides the current polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which detect the genetic material (ribonucleic acid, RNA) of the virus, we are also looking at other types of tests. These are tests that detect the presence of virus proteins (antigen tests). We are also looking at tests that detect the presence of antibodies in the blood (serological tests). With the help of these tests, for example in combination with the current test, we may be able to test more people to find out if they have (or have had) the coronavirus.

Can I have a test to see if I have already had the virus and if I have antibodies against the novel coronavirus?

No, people are already being tested to a limited extent as part of research into the spread of the virus in the Netherlands. Right now, RIVM is investigating which antibody test gives the most reliable result. We discourage people from having their blood tested for the presence of antibodies against the novel coronavirus. This can give a feeling of false security. RIVM is currently investigating whether the presence of antibodies also means that you can no longer get the virus, and that you can no longer become ill from it. People with mild symptoms may have fewer antibodies, which would mean that they are not fully protected against the virus.

Questions about COVID-19

What is the difference between COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2?

Previously known as “2019 novel coronavirus”, it is now designated by the World Health Organization as “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2” or SARS-CoV-2. The disease it causes is “Coronavirus Disease 2019” or COVID-19.

Can the virus change?

Many viruses can change over time, and this can certainly happen with viruses that have only recently been transmitted from animal to human. The question is whether the virus therefore becomes more dangerous for humans. Mutations can also ensure that the virus becomes less dangerous. Alternatively, some small change may take place and consequently have no effect. Fortunately, we rarely see that a virus mutates and suddenly becomes very dangerous. As a precaution, this will always be carefully monitored.

What is the incubation period of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The incubation period is the time between catching the virus and beginning to have the symptoms of the disease. The incubation period with the novel coronavirus is between 2 to 12 days. We use 14 days to be on the safe side.

The incubation time is calculated based on information obtained  from many patients. If a report is received of a longer incubation time, then there could be a question of an unobserved contact that took place in between, whereby the incubation time appears to be longer.

How is the virus transmitted?

By coughing and sneezing, a person transmits the virus through his nose, throat or lungs. The virus gets into the air through small droplets. If other people inhale these droplets or transfer them via their hands in their mouth, nose or eyes, for example, they can become infected with the virus. 

 

Questions about National Immunisation Programme

What about the vaccinations within the National Immunisation Programme for my child and the novel coronavirus?

It is very important that your child receives the usual vaccinations provided within the National Immunisation Programme (RVP in Dutch) If, for example, you postpone the 14-month vaccinations, there is a risk of diseases such as measles and meningitis caused by meningococcal infections. These are highly contagious diseases that still occur in the Netherlands. If you or your child has a cold or a fever, or if someone in the family has a fever, please contact the well-baby clinic. More information

All gatherings and group formations are currently prohibited. Will the group vaccinations continue? 

No. Group vaccinations have been postponed at least until after summer vacation. This applies to group vaccinations for nine-year-olds (DTP and BMR) and thirteen-year-olds (HPV). Vaccinations against meningococcal disease will be continued, but in another way. The measures apply to the whole of the Netherlands. Postponing BMR, DTP and HPV for six months will not compromise the protection from these diseases provided through the National Immunisation Programme. Youth Health Services (JGZ organisaties in Dutch), who provide these vaccinations on an individual basis, may, of course, continue to do so. 

Am I more susceptible to COVID-19 after vaccination within the National Immunisation Programme?

No, vaccination does not reduce your resistance. The risk of infection with the novel coronavirus is the same as before vaccination. 

Questions about quarantine and isolation

What is quarantine at home?

Quarantine at home means that the entire family/household must stay at home because one member of the household has respiratory complaints with fever and/or shortness of breath. The word quarantine is used when someone who is not sick has to stay at home until that person is not infectious to others.

The person who is sick must keep as much distance as possible from members of their household.

How long does quarantine take?

With a conifrmed coronavirius infection, all members of the household must stay at home for 14 days after the last contact with the patient. The patient stays in isolation until he/she has had no symptoms for 24 hours. This means: no fever, no nose cold and no cough.

When the person has respiratory problems with a fever/or shortness of breath, all members of the household must stay in quarantine until the patient is symptom-free for 24 hours and nobody else in the household has any symptoms.

What does self-isolation mean?

Self-isolation means that someone with respiratory problems with or without fever and/or shortness of breath stays at home and keeps as much distance as possible from members of his/her household.  Household members also stay at home if someone has fever and/or shortness of breath in addition to respiratory problems (home quarantine).

All people with respiratory problems with or without fever and/or shortness of breath should in principle self-isolate.

Are there any exceptions to these rules?

Other rules for self-isolation and home quarantine could apply for people working in crucial sectors and critical processes. For example, care workers only stay at home if they themselves have  symptoms with a fever. (Talk to your employer if you are in any doubt.)

What is isolation?

A person who is kept in isolation is either sick or there is a possibility that he/she is sick. If isolated, these patients cannot infect others. People can isolate themselves in their own home (self-isolation) or be treated in isolation in a hospital. This depends on the severity of their symptoms and the infectiousness of the disease.

More information for people in self-isolation

More information for household members in self-isolation

Questions about pets

Can my pet become infected with the novel coronavirus?

There have been a few cases of pets infected with the novel coronavirus worldwide, including a dog and some cats in the Netherlands. In almost all cases, the pet owners were also ill and tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The chance of a pet becoming infected and then infecting another animal or human is very small compared to human-to-human infection.

What about my pet if I have COVID-19 symptoms?

Although the chance of pets becoming infected with the coronavirus is minimal, if you do have symptoms, it is advisable to avoid intensive contact with pets (don’t let them lick you or cuddle with you, but you can stroke their fur). You should preferably leave the care of pets to people without symptoms, who should observe the general hygiene measures for handling pets (wash hands regularly and do not let the pets lick the people caring for them). Dogs of COVID-19 patients and people with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 can be walked by people without symptoms, and are permitted to have contact with other dogs while they are being walked. The spread of the novel coronavirus worldwide at this time is caused by human-to-human transmission.

Can I still walk the dog?

If you do not have any symptoms, such as a nasal cold, runny nose, sore throat, coughing, shortness of breath and/or fever, you can walk your dog as usual. If you do have one or more of these symptoms, ask someone else to walk your dog. Anyone who walks the dog should comply with the general preventive measure to keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Dogs are permitted to have contact with other dogs while they are being walked.

Are there animals in the Netherlands that are infected with the novel coronavirus?

There have been a few cases reported of animals that have the novel coronavirus. Antibodies against the novel coronavirus were detected in one dog. This means that the dog was previously infected with the virus. The dog was probably infected by its owner, who has COVID-19. The virus was also detected at several mink farms where animals were showing respiratory and intestinal symptoms. Researchers are investigating how the animals at the mink farms were infected. Antibodies for the virus were also found in several cats that were present at one of these farms. Additional protection measures have been implemented at the infected farms. Research on and around the farms shows that they do not pose a risk of spreading the virus to humans.

Can animals transmit the novel coronavirus to humans?

In the Netherlands, there have been two reports of possible animal-to-human transmission. These infections took place on mink farms where minks were infected with the virus. Employees working at the farms took care of the minks when it was not yet known that the animals were infected. Several of the employees may have contracted the virus from the minks. Employees working at mink farms where minks have tested positive for the virus are now required to use personal protective equipment.

It is very unlikely that household pets will become infected with the virus and play a role in spreading the virus. That risk is currently much smaller than the chance that people will infect each other.

Questions about water

Is drinking water in the Netherlands safe?

Yes. The coronavirus has not been found in our tap water. Drinking water quality is monitored continuously, so its safety is guaranteed.

Can I use public drinking water taps?

Yes, you can. Do not touch the tap where the water flows out. Make sure you do not sneeze or cough in the direction of the tap. If possible, turn the water on with clean hands or a clean tissue. These precautions will allow us to minimise the risk of spreading the virus.
 

Questions about hygiene

Is it better to wash your hands with soap and water than to use hand gel or hand sanitiser?

Yes. The best way to clean your hands is to wash your hands with soapSeksueel Overdraagbare Aandoeningen Peilstation and water. This is a good way to remove pathogens. Even from dirty or sticky hands. Hand sanitiser or hand gel works less well, especially for dirty or sticky hands. Only use disinfecting hand gel if your work keeps you from washing your hands with soap and water for an extended period of time.

Why are public spaces and outdoor areas not being disinfected?

We do not recommend the use of disinfectants in public spaces and outdoor areas. There is very little risk that someone will be infected via, for example, floors, benches, playground equipment or railings at the public transport station. The risk of getting sick is even lower if you do not touch your face with your hands. Wash your hands with soap and water right away, as soon as you get home or arrive at your school or work.

It is not necessary to spray disinfectants or to disinfect outdoor furniture, such as playground equipment and bus shelters. It does not offer extra protection and it can be harmful to people and the environment. In addition, pathogens could become insensitive to a disinfectant if you use it often. In that case, the disinfectant will stop working. In large public indoor spaces, such as stations or shopping malls, it is sufficient to clean with water and soap or an all-purpose cleaner. There are no substances that are permitted for use in the Netherlands for large-scale disinfection of public spaces or outdoor areas by means of spraying or misting.