‘Give more freedoms to young people,’ says Amsterdam mayor

Photo: Gemeente Amsterdam
Photo: Gemeente Amsterdam

The mayor of Amsterdam has led a call for urgent attention to the plight of young people in the Netherlands under the coronavirus restrictions.

Femke Halsema, and six prominent experts, want young people to have priority for fast coronavirus tests so that restrictions on them can be somewhat relaxed to lessen the social blow of the pandemic.

In an opinion piece in the Volkskrant, they cite I&O Research polls showing that 69% of young people now regularly feel lonely, and EenVandaag research showing two-thirds of this age group feel worse than in the first lockdown.

The piece, described as a manifesto by Dutch media, says that there needs to be higher priority for the young. ‘The mental and social impact is severe for young people and it is also affecting the health of our society,’ they write.

Halsema said in an interview with the television programme Nieuwsuur that young people should be the first to get freedom as measures like the curfew are relaxed. ‘I recognise the need for a curfew and other rules, but if we are thinking about giving more freedoms, we should first think about the young,’ she said. ‘We know that the young generation is suffering the most at the moment.’

The seven experts, who deal with young people in all kinds of ways, believe that the ban on organised outside sports for over 18s should be relaxed to the age of 25, fast testing should be ramped up for the young so that more social centres and clubs can open, and that everything possible should be done to minimise the long-term impact on their mental health.

‘From 12 to 25 are formative years for your experiences later,’ their article says. ‘You experiment with becoming an adult, you have your first big disappointments, feel the pain of love and fumble to find your own path. This is difficult enough in normal times and all too many vulnerable young people are missing the chance to connect with a successful adult life.’

The article writers, including OLVG hospital chairman Maurice van den Bosch and national youth council chair Maurice Knijnenburg, say that young people do not have obvious, powerful lobby groups, which is why they are taking up their cause.

Ministers heading for Friday afternoon’s cabinet meeting pledged to take the issue on board.

‘We know that things are needed,’ medical care minister Tamara van Ark said. ‘And we will take this call for action into account in our decision making.’

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