Mixed reactions as Dutch open schools but extend event ban to September

The government’s decision to extend most of the coronavirus lockdown measures to May 20, and to ban organised events to September 1, has had a mixed reaction from the sectors most affected by the changes.

Prime minister Mark Rutte’s announcement that primary schools would re-open from May 11 has caused dismay among teachers, says umbrella union LIA. ‘The safety of the teaching staff is not sufficiently guaranteed, particularly in a sector where many teachers are aged 50 or over,’ a union spokesman told the Telegraaf.

The union wants teachers to decide for themselves if they want to take the risk ‘for themselves and perhaps for a vulnerable member of the family’. The children will go to school on alternate days which means teachers will be teaching one day and give digital classes the next, putting ‘even greater pressure on teachers. We could be facing an even bigger lack of teachers than before,’ the union warned.

Primary schools council PO-Raad said it supports the decision to open the schools despite the fact that teachers may be at risk. ‘With careful monitoring by the government we should be able to do this. School boards will still be responsible and we urge them to use common sense to decide what is and is not possible,’ chairwoman Rinda den Besten told the paper.

A survey among school leaders by school leaders’ organisation AVS among 1325 heads of primary schools showed 80% was motivated to re-open schools. However, questions remain around the transport of pupils in special schools and hygiene provisions, chair Petra van Haren told current affairs programme Nieuwsuur.

Motivational speech

‘The press conference eagerly awaited by the Netherlands’, as the NRC called it on Wednesday morning turned out to be no more than an ‘interim report annex motivational speech’ the paper said.

What the government announced on April 21

Nevertheless, the announcement that there won’t be any big events until September 1 has hit the festival sector hard. ‘We asked for clarity and we got it but now it’s final it’s a big blow,’ director John Mulder of Mojo Concerts (Pinkpop, Down the Rabbit Hole, North Sea Jazz, Lowlands) told the NRC.

Some 700 festivals with over 3,000 visitors will not be going ahead, with revenue loss hitting €4bn and 48,000  jobs under threat, Willem Westermann, of the events sector association VVEM spokesman told broadcaster NOS.

The Vierdaagse walking event, which attracts some 40,000 walkers to Nijmegen, is also cancelled. ‘Understandable but sad’ organiser Walter Hamers told local broadcaster Omroep Gelderland. ‘To organise the biggest event in the Netherlands at this time would be irresponsible, so we support the decision.’

Sail, the massive nautical event which takes over Amsterdam’s waterfront every five years has also been cancelled, and will not take place until 2025.


The Dutch hospitality sector association Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN) is ‘angry’ that bars and restaurants did not get a look-in at the press conference. Director Dirk Beljaarts labelled the measures taken to support the sector ‘insufficient’ and warned that some 10% of all bar and restaurant owners had no financial reserves left.

Hairdressers’ organisation ANK said that it was ‘disappointed’ that hairdressers, which, like nail bar workers, are considered a ‘contact profession’, will not be allowed to restart their businesses.

Locals get creative with coronavirus

Chairman Maurice Cruso said the organisation had done everything to make it safe to go back to work, from a union-approved hygiene protocol to a flexible use of staff. ‘We are expecting the government to act now,’ Cruso said. He also said that the longer the salons remain closed, the more hairdressers will resort to do the work on the sly. 

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