Ministers failed to ask for advice on reopening clubs: NRC

People waiting for a 'test for entry' test. Photo:
People waiting for a ‘test for entry’ test. Photo:

Ministers decided to reopen night clubs on June 26 without waiting for the results of a Fieldlab experiment and ignored advice from its own health experts about how events could be held safely, the NRC reported on Monday.

The government lifted most of the coronavirus restrictions in the Netherlands on June 26 after infections fell to around 500 day. Three weeks later, over 10,000 new infections are being reported on a daily basis, nightclubs are now closed again and ‘test for entry’ festivals have also been halted.

Fieldlab, an alliance of the events sector, government and scientists, held a series of controlled, but criticised, events in the run up to June 26 to assess how theatre shows, festivals and concerts could be held safely using mass testing.

But Fieldlab’s only club event, at Shelter in Amsterdam, was not held until the end of May and the results had not been made available to ministers before they decided clubs could reopen safely, as long as all guests had a negative test or had been vaccinated, the NRC said.

Nor did ministers ask for preliminary findings from the event or ask the Outbreak Management Team to look specifically at the risk of reopening clubs, the paper said. It bases the claim on official papers and interviews with people who were involved in the process.

The results of the Shelter test, which involved just 600 clubbers, show that at least two visitors and two workers tested positive after the event, and the total could be higher because the second tests were not a requirement.

Fieldlab concluded that visiting a club resulted in ‘a higher infection risk per hour’ and was poised to advise the cabinet to make sure that clubs met higher ventilation standards, the NRC reported.

In the event, ministers did not limit the number of clubbers and did not set extra conditions on ventilation.

August 13

Ministers also ignored OMT and Fieldlab advice to test everyone within 24 hours of the end of an event, and to reduce the validity of a negative test to 24 rather than 40 hours. People were also allowed to attend events as soon as they had been vaccinated, without waiting 14 days for the vaccine to kick in.

Ministers are due to meet Fieldlab representatives as well as events and hospitality industry representatives on Monday to discuss how events can be held safely after the next deadline of August 13.

Ministers have already introduced a 14-day post vaccination wait and reduced the validity of a negative test to 24 hours.


So far at least 62 clusters of at least 20 coronavirus infections have been identified since restrictions on cafes, clubs and festivals were lifted, according to figures put together by public health institute RIVM.

The biggest known cluster consists of 900 cases which can be traced back to the Verknipt festival in Utrecht. Others centre on the Aspen Valley café in Enschede, where 152 cases have been reported, and on student association events.

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