Empty streets and short walks on the first working day of strict closure in the Netherlands | The coronavirus crisis


“Hello. We have had to cancel your visit due to the new restrictions, but we can take home the mix for the highlights that we normally put on you. It looks good?”. The one who expresses herself this way on the phone is a hairdresser from The Hague, who has in front of the numbers of the clients who have missed their appointments due to the strict closure imposed last Saturday in the Netherlands to stop the advance of the omicron variant. It is the first working day since the announcement of the acting Government, and the street of the hairdresser, located in an upper-middle-class residential area of ​​the city, is empty. Only businesses considered essential, such as the supermarket, the bakery and the butcher shop, remain open. There can be no more than two people together abroad and those who have not placed their orders online quickly return home. The application of the limitations is in the hands of the municipalities and in Drenthe, in the northeast of the country, the first fine has already been imposed. The Party for Freedom, of the far-right leader Thierry Baudet, set up a Christmas market there without permission this Sunday and will have to pay 10,000 euros.

The lonely scene of The Hague is repeated in the streets of its urban center. “I suppose I understand it, but it is a very hard blow at this time. It’s when we make the most boxes, ”says Peter, as he checks the chairs stacked on his deck. In your case, the restaurant, of which you prefer not to disclose the name, will try to reduce losses with the delivery of meals at home, which is allowed. The Dutch Cabinet uses, without translating it, the English term lockdown (confinement) to refer to the closure of all non-essential services, and to reduce encounters and crowds in the street. It does not prevent going for a walk, going to buy food or to the pharmacy, but the closure of social life achieves the desired effect: that people stay as much as possible in their homes, reducing visits to two people. Lockdown it appears in an entry in the Van Dale dictionary – equivalent in Dutch to that of the Royal Spanish Academy – as “a total closure”. And also as an emergency measure “that prevents access or exit from buildings and environments.” In English, and on the lips of the prime minister and the head of Health, it is a confinement presented in a more international packaging and perhaps thus more digestible.

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“Will we see the grandparents?” Lode, almost four years old, asks her mother, Maartje, at the door of a pharmacy, also in The Hague. The establishment is part of a GP practice, and they have gone to buy an antibiotic with a prescription. The child was referring to the maternal grandparents and she is doing calculations with the ages. His parents are close to 70 years old and from there the Government indicates that encounters with children under 12 should be reduced. At home they celebrate Christmas Eve together and have not yet made a decision. That day, Christmas and December 26, four people can be received, the same as on New Year’s Eve, but the number of infections fluctuates and they have doubts. This Monday, there were 2,411 people hospitalized, almost 90 more than on Sunday, according to the national center that coordinates the distribution of patients. In ICUs, the number has dropped somewhat, with 596 admissions, 13 less than a day before. The positive cases registered between Sunday and Monday were 12,220, about 1,111 less than a day before. The Institute for Health and the Environment (RIVM) says that at the beginning of December there were more than 20,000 infections a day, while last week they reached 17,000.

According to a survey published this Monday by the program One todayOn public television, 59% of the Dutch talk with friends and relatives about the official rules against covid. One in seven people (15%) ends up arguing. The most notorious shock occurs between vaccinated and unvaccinated. They are not understood, and two-thirds of the 31,000 respondents say that the tension between the two groups “is the greatest contradiction that today causes divisions in society,” indicate sources from the television network, AvroTros.

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In Amsterdam, the emptying of streets was equally visible. In the heart of the city, on Dam Square, there were walkers and some people feeding the pigeons, as well as police cars patrolling all over the area. On commercial roads, such as Kalverstraat, also in the center, and one of the busiest all year round, the image was similar. Cohabitants, like families, consider themselves one person when it comes to going out and that is why some exceed the two allowed. The hotels are still open, but there is nothing to do outside. Cinemas, museums, theaters, amusement parks and zoos are closed. In a boutique hotel in the capital, located in the canal area, they explain the internal rules over the phone: “All meals must be consumed in the rooms, the gym is only accessible by appointment, the restaurant and cafeteria are closed and the mask is mandatory at all times ”. They add that there are cancellations and the money is returned depending on each case.

After a weekend of emotional shock in the Netherlands due to the closure, a new phenomenon may occur in the next few hours. The mayors of the Belgian and German towns on the Dutch border expect to receive views of citizens who are going to spend the day, shopping, or even to the cinema, and then return home. “It can be done, but respecting the rules,” Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said on Saturday. To avoid contagion, however, the Government asked “to apply common sense and reduce travel.” From the government of the province of Antwerp, in Belgium, the Dutch have already been asked “to respect the measures of their own country and not come.” On the other hand, in North Rhine-Westphalia the environmental party has described as “completely absurd” that the Netherlands is in a situation of confinement, while its citizens cross to the border stores, the Dutch media point out. Both Germany and Belgium are scheduled to study their own measures against the pandemic this week.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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