The Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte today publicly apologized for the government’s poor decision making in the wake of the lifting of controls on the Wuhan pneumonia (novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19) outbreak, which has seen the number of confirmed cases soar from more than 500 to nearly 7,000 in a single day in just 2 weeks.
Reuters reports that Rutte told reporters, “We thought this would work, but it didn’t. Our judgment was abysmal and we are very sorry and apologize.” The Netherlands had announced on July 9 that it would reimpose controls.
Rutte’s apology is a major shift in his position, as he has previously defended the easing of restrictions as a “logically sound step” while refusing to admit fault or let the government he leads take the blame.
Rutte also said his remarks at the July 9 press conference were less than ideal, saying, “We are expected to take responsibility for our own decisions, but we have not done so, and that is not right.”
The current rise in the epidemic in the Netherlands is not reflected in hospitalization rates, as most of the new cases are in young people, a group with a relatively low likelihood of serious illness, and most of the country’s senior citizens have been vaccinated.
But Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said the low hospitalization rate will probably push the infection rate in the Netherlands to an “unprecedented” situation.