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As I was listening to the RIVM briefing yesterday, and the subsequent debate in the Second Chamber, I was wondering whether they were even talking about COVID-19. This article provides an overview of what is now known about the virus based on international research, but has not, or barely, reached the Dutch media and politics.
Yesterday I heard the RIVM briefing and then I followed the debate in parliament. And I wondered if they were talking about the Covid-19 virus. So much more is known by research, but at no time did I hear that back yesterday. Really from no one.
In Dutch politics and in the media, the latest research findings play virtually no role. On the one hand this is because so little research is done in the Netherlands itself, while on the other hand, research from abroad is hardly picked up in the Netherlands. Not even if it is carried out a stone’s throw away from our borders (in Gangelt).
If you do follow those studies, then the discussions within Dutch politics – like yesterday in Parliament – and the interviews with experts in talk shows, to put it very kindly, are astonishing. As if it were a totally different virus.
First a few important issues regarding the virus, on which there is now quite some international consensus, and then some recent information:
- Transmitting an infection with Covid-19 by touching objects does not happen. I repeat: does not take place.
- Everything we do to prevent contamination by touching objects is of no value.
- The chance of being infected with Covid-19 in the open air is very, very small. Especially when the sun is shining.
Unfortunately, no contact studies have been published in the Netherlands (they have barely been carried out). So we are investigating the contacts of infected people with those around us. Fortunately, abroad they do. There are studies from China, South Korea, the USA and Germany.
From these, the same picture emerges:
- Infection takes place through close and prolonged contact within confined spaces, but not through incidental and brief contact. So if you are close to an infected person for a while (in the first 5 days of his symptoms) then you are most likely to be infected. So the time factor is important. (The time is not specified in the examinations, but it is more a haf hour than 5 minutes).
The image that you get infected because you are near an infected person for a short period of time, from which you “catch” a drop, is completely misplaced.
- The longer you are in a place where you get the virus, the more severe the symptoms are on average, the sicker you become.
- Roommates of an infected person do not get infected nearly as often as was thought. Percentages that have been established are between 5 and 25%. The vast majority of household members are not infected. Even those who are infected are usually (much) less sick than if they were infected during a super spreading event.
- In places where there are many people and the aerosols can remain floating with the virus, many people can be infected at the same time. The time you spend in that room and the number of aerosols with the virus in the air play an important role in the extent to which you become ill. (These are the super spreading events)
- The effects of aerosols are reduced by good ventilation and a humidity of 6gr/Kg.
- The exponential growth in the number of infected persons is caused by super spreading events and not by direct contact between an infected person and non-infected persons.
- The risks of infection are greatest in places where you are in the same room with an infected person for a long time. These include households, public transport, offices and restaurants. Places where many people speak/shout/song are a clear risk that many of those present will become infected.
It would be nice if all those involved in the political and public debate were aware of these international research results. So that discussions can be held in a meaningful way and decisions can be taken on a sound basis. Now it seems that people are not even heading for 50% of the knowledge.
It also prevents many Dutch people from thinking that their chance of being infected is many times higher than it really is. In this way they worry too much and limit their behaviour (much) too much.