Focus (2)

Soualiga Newsday Focus (3003)

Two more members of right-to-die organisation arrested

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Two more members of an organisation that advocates for the right to die have been arrested as part of a police investigation into illegal assisted suicide.

The Dutch public prosecution service has reported the arrest of a 72-year-old woman from Amerfoort and a 78-year-old man from Den Bosch, in connection with a case against a 28-year-old man accused of assisting suicide, breaking the medicines act and money laundering.

Both of the people arrested this week were members of the Cooperatie Laatste Wil, which campaigns for ‘choice’ around ending life and claims it has some 40,000 supporters.

Last month, the chairman of the organisation, Jos van Wijk, was arrested and detained for a day, on suspicion of involvement in a criminal organisation whose purpose is to help in suicides.

In the arrests this week, the 72-year-old woman is suspected of dealing in a medicine that reduces vomiting and can only legally be supplied by doctors and pharmacies, as well as criminal action in assisting suicide.

She is suspected of working with the 28-year-old, Alex S, who was detained in August for allegedly selling suicide powder to dozens of people, including at least six who later died.

The 78-year-old man is also suspected of involvement in handling prohibited substances, but the public prosecutor said that ‘further investigation is necessary’.

‘€20 plus postage’

After the arrest of Alex S, the public prosecution department claimed he had been selling a fatal powder between November 2018 and June and could have had hundreds of ‘clients’.

He came to the attention of the police in May following the death of a woman in Best, but his alleged activities were first detailed by local broadcaster Omroep Brabant in 2018.

RTL Nieuws has reported that the man sold the powder via online market website Marktplaats for as little as €20 plus postage. Although euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, under six strict conditions, it can only be carried out by a doctor.

In all other cases, assisting suicide is illegal. Alex S will appear before a court next Wednesday.



New coronvirus infections near 6,000, over 14% of tests are positive

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Nearly 6,000 people were diagnosed with coronavirus in the 24 hours to Friday morning, according to new figures from public health institute RIVM.

That figure is up 700 on Thursday’s total and takes the average number of cases over the past seven days to 4,334. The new figures also show that nearly 37,000 people were tested for the virus on Wednesday and 14.4% of the results were positive.

That rate too is increasing. Some 34 people out of every 100,000 are now testing positive for coronavirus, the highest figure since the end of July.

Meanwhile, the number of people admitted to hospital with coronavirus topped 100 for the first time since the end of July on Friday, national patient coordination centre LCPS said on Friday.

In the 24 hours to Friday morning, 118 people were admitted to hospital with coronavirus, while the number of people in intensive care rose by 21. In total, 697 coronavirus patients are being treated in hospital, of whom 174 are on an intensive care ward.

Dutch hospitals have a total of 950 IC beds. More than four in five coronavirus patients have not been vaccinated, national health institute RIVM said earlier this week. On Thursday, the number of new cases of coronavirus topped 5,000 for the first time since mid-July.

Government health advisors are due to meet next week to discuss the situation ahead of the government’s next press conference on November 5. Experts have already said that an increase in cases was only to be expected now that most of the last measures to control the virus have been halted.



Strong winds disrupt roads and rail, whirlwind injures four in Barendrecht

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Four people have been injured in Barendrecht after a whirlwind ripped through a residential area, damaging roofs and tearing up garden sheds in four streets.

One person was taken to hospital for treatment, broadcaster NOS reported. In other parts of the country, trees have been brought down, causing traffic jams and there are no trains between Utrecht and Soest, and Utrecht and Amersfoort because of fallen trees on the track.

Buses will replace trains for the duration. There were also no high speed trains between Rotterdam and Breda for a time. The KNMI weather bureau has issued a code yellow storm warning for all of the Netherlands on Thursday morning, saying winds of up to 90 kph may batter coastal regions.

Strong winds and heavy rain will also hit the south of the country, the KNMI said. The winds will die down later in the day.



Unemployment drops, but consumers are more worried about the economy

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Some 9.1 million people in the Netherlands are currently in paid work, with their number rising by some 22,000 a month over the past three months, national statistics office CBS said on Thursday.

The drop in unemployment takes the Dutch jobless figure to 3.1%, after reaching 4.6% at the height of the coronavirus crisis. At the same time, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits has gone down 2.2% to 207,900 with the sharpest drop – 12.3% – among people who worked in the hospitality industry.

The culture, cleaning and retail sectors also all reported significant reductions. More youngsters are also in work, the CBS said. The CBS also said on Thursday that consumer spending rose by almost 6% in August, when compared with last summer, and 3.4% when measured against August 2019.

Spending was up nearly 10% on services, such as tickets for events, the hairdresser and a restaurant visit, as the Netherlands removed more of its coronavirus reduction measures.

Despite this, by October consumers have become more pessimistic about the future, with the consumer confidence index slumping from -5 to -10, when compared with September, the CBS said.

In particular, consumers are worried about the general economic climate and rising prices, the CBS said.



€570m in spending and 300 fines: environmental inspectors in spotlight

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Government environmental service inspectors handed out almost 300 fines to companies last year and issued over 2,000 warnings, according to a report carried out for the infrastructure ministry by consultancy TwynstraGudde.

The research was commissioned following complaints about the way the services are operating, including criticism on the lack of overall control by the national audit office, the NRC reported on Wednesday.

TwynstraGudde looked at the number of reports made by all 29 regional and local inspectorates, which cost local and provincial government a combined €570m a year.

It found, for example, that Drenthe’s environmental agency neither registers the number of inspections or how many fines it issues, while services in Zuidoost-Brabant, Utrecht, Flevoland & Gooi- en Vechtstreek, Noord-Holland Noord and Achterhoek do not know how many inspections they carried out in 2020.

The research project forms the first stage in a plan to overhaul the way the agencies are organised, with the aim of ensuring they are both fully independent and properly staffed.



Morocco suspends flights to the Netherlands as a ‘coronavirus measure’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Air traffic between Morocco and the Netherlands, Germany and Britain is being suspended from midnight on Wednesday as a coronavirus measure, Moroccan airlines Air Maroc and Air Arabia Maroc said on Twitter.

Transavia too said it had been informed by the Moroccan authorities about the restriction. The KLM unit, which flies 11 return flights to Morocco a week, said it is investigating what the ruling means for holidaymakers and will do all it can to bring people back.

The official Dutch travel advice for Morocco is amber, which means the country should only be visited for essential business, not for holidays. Nevertheless, according to the AD, many Dutch people are in the country because of the half term holidays.

Moroccan news site Le360 said the decision had been taken because of a ‘new variant’ which is on the rise in the three countries. ‘This decision was taken by the authorities, who did not provide an explanation,’ the website said.

‘Le360 was able to learn from informed sources that it was motivated by health reasons, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the Germany having recorded several cases of a new version of the Delta variant.’

The British government has included news of the suspension of flights on its official travel advice website. The Dutch travel advice has not yet been updated. The BBC reported on Tuesday that officials in the UK are keeping a close watch on a new descendant of the Delta variant of Covid that is causing a growing number of infections.

Delta is the UK’s dominant variant, but latest official data suggests 6% of Covid cases that have been genetically sequenced are of a new type, named AY.4.2, the BBC said. However, experts told the broadcaster it is unlikely to take off in a big way or escape current vaccines.


According to Belgian virologist Marc van Ranst, the variant, which may be slightly more infectious than the dominant Delta version, has been spotted in Denmark, the UK and Israel.

Van Ranst told Belgian news website De Morgen he would not be surprised if the virus arrived in Belgium because ‘spreading is what viruses continually do’. DutchNews has contacted public health institute RIVM to find out if the variant has been identified in the Netherlands.



Utrecht tackles segregation in primary schools, ends informal waiting lists

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Utrecht city council is taking steps to end segregation in primary schools by stopping parents from signing their children up to a given school as soon as they are born, the Volkskrant reported on Tuesday.

Although schools officially stopped registering very young children as potential pupils in 2014, dozens still keep informal waiting lists and it is usually ‘white, well-educated parents’ who are benefiting, city officials say.

Now the council has introduced a new central system to allocate primary school places. Children can only be placed on the list when they reach the age of three, brothers and sisters have priority and then places will go to children from the neighbourhood.

If places are left over, there will be a lottery. Amsterdam and The Hague already operate a centralised system.

Guido Walraven, a researcher at the mixed school research institute Kenniscentrum Gemengde Scholen, told the Volkskrant there are three reasons for segregation in Dutch schools: parental prejudice, an unequal admissions policy and segregated neighbourhoods.

‘What you want is school classes that reflect the makeup of the city,’ he said. It is not easy to achieve, but ‘you should at least try’. In 2019, school inspectors warned of the ‘unacceptable’ inequality in Dutch education because children of well-educated parents are scoring better in final primary school exams than children of equal intelligence from more disadvantaged backgrounds.

For example, well-educated parents are more involved in the choice of school and invest money in tutors, homework classes and training in exam techniques.

Their children are also more likely to be labelled dyslexic or as having adhd, which also entitles them to extra teaching time, the inspectors said.



Coronavirus infection rate rises 44% in a week, hospital admissions up too

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of positive coronavirus tests continues to rise, with the total hitting 25,751 in the past seven days, the public health institute RIVM said in its latest weekly update on Tuesday.

The rise, up 44% week on week, is due to both the scrapping of most preventative rules three weeks ago, and seasonal affects, the RIVM said. The increase is visible across all regions and all age groups, but concentrated in the under-50s, where the vaccination rate is lowest.

Last week the increase was 48%. In total, 198,000 people were tested for coronavirus in the past week, up 25% on a week ago. One in eight of them tested positive for the virus, up from one in 10 a week earlier.

The number of people admitted hospital is also going up – 385 last week compared with 281 in the previous seven-day period. There was also a rise in IC admissions, from 71 to 81.

In total, 610 people are now in hospital with coronavirus, of whom 146 are on an IC ward, according to figures from national patient registry LCPS, The key R ratio has also risen to 1.20, which means 100 people with the virus will infect a further 120.

The R ratio has a time lag of two weeks. Last week, 48 people died from coronavirus, double the previous week’s total.



Hospitals under strain again after coronavirus patients moved from Zwolle

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Three coronavirus patients were transferred from a hospital in Zwolle to Rotterdam at the weekend amid warnings that the health service will struggle to cope with a winter wave.

The Isala hospital said it had had to cancel 20 operations this week that had already been postponed once when regular care was scaled back to make room for Covid-19 patients.

There are currently 25 patients being treated for coronavirus in the hospital, five of whom are in intensive care, compared to five patients in total at the start of October.

Around 90% of people being admitted are unvaccinated, manager Ina Kuper told De Stentor. Half the patients are from Staphorst, a Bible Belt village where 52% of people over 12 are fully vaccinated, compared to a national average of 81%.

‘We know that there could be a new peak in patients. That’s what we’re anticipating,’ Kuper said. ‘The influx is no so great that we are having to transfer patients. ‘It’s around two weeks ago that we did away with the 1.5 metre rule.

There is a lot more contact than before, and it’s combined with the low vaccination level in some places in our region. ‘We cannot emphasise the importance of vaccination enough.

People who are unvaccinated are more seriously ill, have to go to hospital sooner and spend more time there.’ Across the country the number of patients has gone up from 422 to 546 in the last two weeks, a 29% increase, while positive tests have increased by more than 50% in the past week.

Jaap van Dissel, the public health agency RIVM’s head of infectious disease control, said there was likely to be a winter peak in hospital and intensive care admissions, but the Outbreak Management Team was not advocating new restrictions at this stage.

‘Infections mean something very different now from last year,’ he said. ‘The infections being reported come from a mix of various different groups, which makes it difficult to predict what will happen with admissions.

In that sense it’s not clear if we should be concerned now or not,’ he told NOS. ‘People like to look far ahead, to April for example, but in practice we look two or three weeks ahead, take steps and make judgments.

‘Sometimes the outlook is good and sometimes it’s bad. One significant uncertain factor is the seasonal effect: the weather is difficult to predict.’



Suspect in De Vries murder case tells court: ‘I knew nothing about it’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The man accused of being the getaway driver in the Peter R. de Vries murder case has told a court he had no knowledge of the killing.

Kamil E., 35, said he had been hired to drive 22-year-old Delano G. from Amsterdam, but was not told what business he had there. ‘I asked if it was something illegal, but I was told I had nothing to worry about.’ E. was giving evidence during an introductory hearing that marks the first day of the trial of the men accused of carrying out the murder of the 64-year-old crime reporter.

De Vries was shot on Lange Leidsedwarsstraat on the evening of July 6, as he left the RTL Boulevard television studio. He died in hospital nine days later.

The court was shown footage of the two suspects getting out of a Renault Kadjar on Prinsengracht about an hour before the shooting and walking together to Leidsedwarsstraat. E. then got back in the car and drove around, while witnesses saw G. sitting waiting on a step until De Vries appeared at around 7.30pm.

He then reached into his bag, pulled out a gun and shot De Vries, the court heard.

The two men were arrested an hour later when the car was pulled over on the A4 motorway near Leidschendam, after being spotted in the capital by a police officer on a motorcycle. G., from Tiel, Gelderland, who appeared in court alongside his co-accused, exercised his right to silence when asked about the killing. E., who moved from Poland to the Gelderland village of Maurik shortly before De Vries was killed, spoke in court through a Polish interpreter.

He said: ‘Your honour, I haven’t killed anybody. I know nothing about the murder. I didn’t see any weapon.’ His lawyer, Ayse Çimen, said there was no evidence to show he intended to kill De Vries: ‘Searches have not found a scintilla of evidence that he was involved in crime or preparing an assassination,’ she said.

Prosecutors said a Louis Vuitton bag found in the car contained an adapted pistol which carried traces of G.’s DNA, while DNA from both men was found on a pistol magazine. E. was also seen two weeks earlier in Amsterdam on what appeared to be a reconnaissance trip, the court heard.

‘In the eyes of the prosecution service these two are the men who carried out the murder,’ the prosecution said.


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