Councils struggling to keep nightspots safe as infections rise again

Photo: Depositphotos
Photo: depositphotos

Local authorities are struggling to enforce the coronavirus rules since they were relaxed to allow bars and nightclubs to reopen without limits on the numbers of customers.

A survey of 15 urban municipalities by Trouw newspaper found most councils had issued just a handful of fines or warnings since the rules changed on June 26. Many said they did not have the resources or were unwilling to ‘act the policeman’ in nightspots.

The reopening of nightlife has triggered a surge of infections in cities such as Groningen, where the number of people testing positive has quadrupled in the last week, and Enschede, where 180 infections have been traced to an outbreak in the Aspen Valley club.

The rules allow venues to reopen fully as long as people observe the 1.5 metre distance rule or the venue signs up to the ‘test for entry’ system and requires all guests to produce a negative coronavirus test result on the door.

Some revellers reported they were able to bypass the system by sharing negative QR codes, while others were given negative results on the opening weekend as ‘compensation’ because of problems processing their actual result. At least one man in Amsterdam went out while infected after he was given the wrong test result.

Groningen council had just five enforcement officers checking the city’s bars, while in Utrecht 12 officers, working in pairs, were doing the rounds, Trouw reported.

Other councils said they were not applying the rules in a heavy-handed way. ‘If we see things getting out of hand or we get a large number of complaints, we’ll step in,’ a spokesman for Haarlem council told Trouw.

Few fines

Marieke Ruijgrok, of Utrecht city council, said officers would speak to bar owners and guests about the rules and only issue fines if the dialogue approach failed. ‘Nobody wants a corona fine of thousands of euros, especially not at a time like this,’ she said.

In some towns and cities cafe owners have closed their doors voluntarily because of concerns about the risk of infection. Four bars in Maastricht told 1Limburg on Monday they were closing after 17 members of staff tested positive following a weekend barbecue.

Justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus insisted on Monday that the test for entry system was working, but admitted that there would ‘always be people who manage to fiddle it.’

‘I’d say to those people, don’t do it, because we want to be able to get through the summer.’

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