We look at the number of new confirmed cases and the number of hospital admissions in a region to determine its risk level. The highest figure is what counts. For example, if the number of new confirmed cases is at the ‘serious’ level and the number of hospital admissions is at ‘concern’, the risk level for the region will be set at ‘serious’.
Example: in a particular region, the number of new confirmed cases per week is 80 per 100,000 inhabitants and the number of hospital admissions per week is 18 per million inhabitants. The risk level for that region is ‘serious’.
Each risk level comes with certain measures. In deciding which measures to take, the government looks at the situation across society. The measures are based on the coronavirus roadmap.
If the situation in three or more regions is ‘serious’ or ‘severe’, a uniform set of measures will apply to the entire country, even in regions where the risk level is lower. The lower risk level therefore no longer applies. This is to avoid even more people becoming infected and the healthcare system becoming overburdened.
We can gradually ease the measures if the national numbers of hospital and ICU admissions are sufficiently low over a two-week period. The reproduction number (‘R’) must also be less than 1. The government will always be very cautious when deciding whether to ease measures. After all, even if the number of new hospital admissions falls, the healthcare sector may still be dealing with large numbers of patients recovering from COVID-19. And we don’t want to relax the measures too quickly, only to see the number of infections rise again.
Example: when hospital admissions nationwide are at 85 per day, the measures are at level ‘severe’. When there are 8 ICU admissions and 15 hospital admissions nationwide per day, the measures are at level ‘concern’. If the reproduction number is 1.2, scaling down the risk level is out of the question.
The government has three objectives:
- to ensure maximum protection for people who are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19;
- to avoid overburdening the healthcare system;
- to monitor the spread of the virus closely and take action when necessary.
A lot of data is generated about coronavirus and the pandemic. The risk levels give everyone a clear overview of the most important figures and of the situation in each region.
At least once every two weeks – or more often if necessary – the risk level of each region is assessed on the basis of the number of new confirmed cases and the number of hospital admissions there. This assessment is done automatically. Changes to a region’s risk level are always published on the dashboard.
The Outbreak Management Team (OMT) regularly reviews the indicators (number of hospital admissions and number of new cases) for each risk level. If they are no longer fit for purpose, the OMT advises on new values for these indicators. The OMT also investigates whether it is necessary to introduce new indicators to keep pace with the changing situation. For instance, a new testing policy, improved vaccination coverage or new virus variants could render the original indicators unsuitable.
The government determines what measures must be taken, based on both the data and the context. This includes, for example, the number of hospital admissions, the total number of occupied hospital beds, the R number, the total number of confirmed cases, the infection rate among at-risk groups, the mortality rate, compliance with existing measures, vaccination coverage and virus mutations. The roadmap gives an overview of the measures that apply at each of the risk levels, but the government can deviate from the roadmap if it thinks it is necessary to tighten up or ease measures.
The situation is manageable. The number of new confirmed cases is fewer than 35 per 100,000 inhabitants per week. There is sufficient healthcare capacity.
The situation is becoming difficult to manage. The number of new confirmed cases is between 35 and 100 per 100,000 inhabitants per week. Pressure on healthcare capacity is increasing.
The situation is serious. The number of new confirmed cases is between 100 and 250 per 100,000 inhabitants per week. Pressure on healthcare capacity is very high.
The situation is severe. The number of new confirmed cases is higher than 250 per 100,000 inhabitants per week. Pressure on healthcare capacity is extreme.