Saturday 31 October 2020

Amsterdam, student cities face new coronavirus clampdown as infections soar

Students clustered together while studying outdoors.

Students have been urged to keep their distance. Photo: Depositphotos

New coronavirus restrictions will be introduced in parts of the Netherlands where coronavirus cases are mounting, and Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Delft and Leiden are on the hit list.

Health minister Hugo de Jonge said on Wednesday that rising number of coronavirus infections is ‘not good’, particularly in the big cities in the west of the country.

On Wednesday, a further 1,500 positive test results were reported to public health institute RIVM, and Germany and Belgium have put Noord and Zuid-Holland provinces on their code red list – which means they should be avoided.

De Jonge and prime minister Mark Rutte will hold a press conference on Friday evening at 7pm to announce what measures are being brought in on a regional basis. ‘There is no single solution to reduce the number of infections,’ De Jonge said. ‘We want to hit the virus hard, but keep the impact on society and the economy to a minimum.’

Student houses in particular appear to be a source of infection, De Jonge said. On Wednesday, DutchNews.nl reported that students in Delft have been sent a letter signed by the students’ associations and the local health service warning them that the town is on the brink of a local lockdown unless they comply with the coronavirus rules and testing regime.

‘At the moment 80% of infected people in Delft are students and the number of infections is doubling every 7 days,’ the letter says. ‘If we do nothing, there is a strong chance that we will end up in a local lockdown in Delft.’

Closing times

Insiders suggest measures to control café and bar openings are likely, with the introduction of earlier closing times top of the list of options. Bars popular with students have been at the centre of several outbreaks, as have several student houses and fraternity clubs.

In Amsterdam, a curfew is on the list of possible restrictions mooted by mayor Femke Halsema last month, when local safety boards were first given the power to introduce local measures.

Information

According to the Volkskrant, the government may also launch new public information campaigns targeting students and immigrant groups, and limit the number of people who can gather together in one space. Currently there is a 100 maximum on indoor gatherings and 250 outside – as long as social distancing can be observed.

Microbiologist Marc Bonten, who is a member of the government’s coronavirus advisory team, told broadcaster NOS that given the virus is spreading fast among 18 to 25-year-olds in social settings ‘it would be logical to step up enforcement there, or bring in new measures to limit them’.

Hospitality sector Horeca Nederland said it is extremely concerned that cafes and bars may face new restrictions, given their fragile finances. In addition,‘such disproportionate regulations will lead to extra problems on the street, given that people will switch to public spaces such as squares and parks,’ the organisation told NOS.

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