SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Confidence in the views of experts is of crucial importance to overcoming coronavirus, king Willem-Alexander said in a televised speech to the national on Friday evening.
‘We should be proud of the expertise at the RIVM, the health boards and all the other institutions and experts who are showing us the way on the basis of scientific research and experience,’ the king said in the speech, which was recorded on Friday afternoon.
‘They are under a lot of pressure, but it is important that we continue to trust them and do what they say. They have one aim and that is to make sure that together we get through this crisis and the risks for vulnerable people remain as small as possible.’
The king praised everyone else working in essential services to keep the country moving, the people working in logistics, in supermarkets, in cleaning, IT, education, childcare, public transport and the police. ‘You are carrying us through tough times,’ the king said.
He also took the step of directly addressing children. ‘I understand how you feel,’ the king said. ‘At first it is quite exciting to be off school, but that stops pretty quickly. You can’t go to school.
No football, no ballet lessons. Birthday parties that get cancelled. It’s hard.’ Parents too, he said, now find themselves at home with the entire family, with few opportunities to go out.
‘It is asking a lot of all of us,’ the king said. ‘Luckily, there is a lot that we can do,’ the king said. ‘We know who in our direct environment needs help. A lot of people have realised this – they keep an eye on others and help where they can.
We can’t stop the coronavirus, but we can stop the virus of loneliness.’ The heart of Dutch society, he said, will keep on beating.
‘2020 will be the year that all of us will remember,’ the king said. ‘Everyone will have their own experiences and go through it in a different way. But I hope and I expect that the feeling of togetherness and pride will continue to draw us together throughout these difficult times.’
Willem-Alexander and his family are currently in self isolation after five people in the ski resort of Lech were diagnosed with coronavirus. The family spent the half term break in the Austrian town. The last time the king addressed the nation outside his traditional address was in 2014 after the MH17 disaster.
Meanwhile, hospitals in Noord-Brabant province, where the Dutch epidemic is concentrated, say they are unable to cope with the number of patients and are appealing on hospitals elsewhere to take patients suffering from other health issues.
‘We are in a crisis situation. We are dealing with an enormous flood of patients and we have had to adapt the hospital to dealing with corona patients only,’ Caroline Heijckmann, medical coordinator at the Berhoven hospital in Uden, told broadcaster NOS.
Dutch intensive care specialists say they expect between 500 and 1,000 coronavirus patients will have landed in intensive care wards by next week and that most will be in Noord-Brabant province, where the epidemic first took hold.
The Dutch death toll from coronavirus leapt by 30 to 106 overnight, according to Friday’s update from the public health institute RIVM. In total, 2,994 people have now tested positive for the virus, of whom 725 work in healthcare, where they are more likely to be screened.
The number of people who are, or who have been, hospitalised rose to 643. Noord-Brabant continues to have far more infections than any other province, with the total positive tests now hitting 1012.