Infections with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in the Netherlands have increased for the third week in a row. The number of patients admitted to hospital nursing wards remained the same this week. New ICU admissions of patients with SARS-CoV-2 rose from 19 to 26 admissions last week (+37%).
Last week, the number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 through the Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs) increased (+70%) all across the Netherlands and among all age groups (Figure 1). The number of nursing homes where someone has tested positive is also increasing. An increase in the number of virus particles has been observed in sewage. In addition, an increasing percentage of the participants in the Infection Radar survey are reporting symptoms that could indicate COVID-19. New hospital admissions of patients with SARS-CoV-2 remained stable last week. However, new ICU admissions of patients with SARS-CoV-2 rose from 19 to 26 admissions last week (+37%). The number of new patients admitted to ICU with COVID-19 is still low.
Figure 1: Number of reported positive tests per 100,000 inhabitants, by age group (9 May 2022 to 19 June 2022)
Omicron BA.5 soon dominant in the Netherlands
Three new Omicron variants (B.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5) are advancing worldwide, leading to rising infections in various countries. These variants are more infectious, partly because it is easier for them to evade the immunity built up by vaccination and/or previous infection compared to previous variants. As a result, the number of reinfections after having had COVID-19 previously is increasing significantly in the Netherlands.
The latest data from pathogen surveillance shows that BA.5 is showing the fastest growth in the Netherlands, and that BA.4 and BA.5 combined have been dominant since the beginning of June 2022. There are no indications that the BA.5 variant would be more likely to cause severe illness compared to the previous Omicron variants.
The situation now is very different from a year ago in early summer. The increasing number of positive COVID-19 tests at that time involved the Delta variant. However, the current Omicron variants are less likely to cause severe illness than the Delta variant that was dominant at that time. Even so, if many people are infected, it may lead to increased pressure on the healthcare system due to a rising number of hospital admissions and employee absences due to illness.
Although the BA.5 variant does not appear to involve a very high risk of severe illness, the virus can still have serious consequences for vulnerable groups and people over 60. With the current upward trend in infections, it continues to be important to stay home and use a self-test if you have symptoms, and to stay home if you test positive for COVID-19 to prevent the virus from spreading.
Vaccination helps prevent serious illness and hospital admission and reduces the risk that you will pass the virus on to others. For everyone who has been invited to get a booster jab or repeat vaccination against COVID-19 but has not yet done so, it is important to get the jab.