Soualiga Newsday Focus

Soualiga Newsday Focus (2295)

Bar at centre of coronavirus outbreak openly defied rules in Facebook post

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The owners of a bar at the centre of a local outbreak of coronavirus announced a month ago they was turning a blind eye to social distancing measures because they were spoiling the atmosphere.

In a now-deleted Facebook post from June, the owners of De Kleine Beurs in Hillegom wrote that the virus appeared to be dormant and customers would not be reprimanded for sitting close together, shaking hands or hugging. ‘We know what we are doing,’ they said.

In the last week 39 confirmed cases of corona have been traced to the bar – 31 customers and eight indirect contacts. Boy Hardeman told the AD this week that ‘The situation could not be worse.’

De Kleine Beurs is now shut. Local public health officials think the transmissions took place on July 11 and are ordering anyone who was in the bar that day to stay home.

Hardeman and his wife, Wanda, said they were mystified as to how their café had become the hub of a local coronavirus outbreak. ‘There was nothing special. No party or large gathering.

Just an evening like all the others since we reopened on June 1.’ More than a week after bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen in the Netherlands, the bar posted on their now-deleted Facebook page that few people were adhering to the measures and that the social distance detracted from the atmosphere at the bar.

‘For many people the café is traditionally the one place where they don’t have to stick to all the rules,’ they wrote. Shortly before deleting their Facebook page, the owners posted that a customer at the bar on July 11 had probably been infected and anyone who was there at the same time should get into contact with the local public health authorities.

‘On average, 13.7% of people who have contact with an infected person become infected with the virus,’ a GGD spokesperson said. Infections rates have been on the rise again as the country has come out of its so-called intelligent lockdown.

South Holland, where the bar is located, has seen the bulk of the new transmissions. Hillegom will decide after the weekend if it will have to lockdown in response.



Calls grow for facemasks in all Dutch public space to stop coronavirus spreading

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb has called for urgent research into whether the Netherlands should impose compulsory face masks in public space, after weekly infections almost doubled in a week.

Speaking to Nieuwsuur news programme, also on behalf of Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema, he said the government needed to prepare alternative measures if the rates continued to rise.

‘I’m most worried about the fact that the most important rule, the one we expected the most of, the 1.5m [distancing], is wearing off very quickly,’ he said. ‘For a lot of people, this doesn’t mean anything anymore and this means we need to consider what’s next.’

He said that the government should research the legal basis for imposing quarantine after a positive test, and also warned people to celebrate religious festivals within a household rather than en masse.

The number of weekly recorded infections in the Netherlands increased from 534 on July 14 to 987 on July 21, and the all-important R figure (measuring how many people each patient infects) is currently above the critical threshold of 1.

Justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus also warned on Wednesday night that people needed to follow the rules better, according to public broadcaster NOS. ‘Otherwise, there is a big chance that local mayors will have to make tougher rules locally,’ he warned.

Meanwhile a study from UMC Utrecht using mathematical modelling to measure the impact of a lockdown versus a package of personal measures – social distancing, hand washing, wearing facemasks in public – found that only all these prevention measures taken together could prevent a major coronavirus epidemic.

Earlier this week, France reimposed face masks in all enclosed public spaces as a measure against growing coronavirus infections. However, although Aboutaleb believes that facemasks outside would be easy to enforce, Hubert Bruls, mayor of Nijmegen and chair of the regional safety councils association, disagreed, telling NPO Radio 1 that distancing would work better in open public spaces.



Study suggests face masks needed in bars to protect against coronavirus droplets

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – As coronavirus infections almost double in a week, initial tests for a University of Twente study suggest that it could be vital to wear face masks in bars and cafés, reports the AD.

Detlef Lohse, professor of the physics of fluids, is leading a study into how long droplets in the air hang and their possible role in infection. His initial trials suggest that they remain a danger for longer than previously thought, the paper reports.

‘They live for 30 to 40 times longer than thought in a model from the 1930s, which is the basis for the 1.5m distancing rules from the World Health Organization and the RIVM [Dutch public health institute],’ he reportedly said.

‘Facemasks are essential, for example in bars.’ Increasing concerns have emerged from scientists worldwide that the coronavirus is not only spread by droplets from coughs and sneezes but also via airborne transmission of tiny particles that could travel further.

On Tuesday, the RIVM announced that the weekly number of recorded infections in the Netherlands had increased from 534 on July 15 to 987 on July 21 – suggesting that each person infected is spreading the coronavirus to more than one other.

Clusters of infections have been linked to events, for example, a meeting in a café in Hillegom after which 27 people tested positive, plus within families. Eminent virologist Marion Koopmans told Nieuwsuur that she is concerned about the rapid rise in infections.

‘If we keep seeing this increase, then we need to take strong measures very quickly,’ she reportedly said. The RIVM has not currently asked for stricter measures – such as mandatory face masks in shops, which France has introduced after infections rose – but warns people to keep their distance, wash hands frequently and get a test at any sign of complaints.

So far, 6136 people have died from the coronavirus in the Netherlands, half of them aged 83 or older.



Regional lockdowns ‘could be necessary’ as coronavirus spreads among under-30s

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – People in their twenties are the most likely group to be infected with coronavirus according to the latest RIVM figures. Nearly 23% of all positive tests since July 1 were from people aged 20 to 29, compared to less than 7% in March.

Back then 73% of all patients were aged 50 or over, but in July the proportion shrank to 29%. The breakdown figures also show that the recent spike in infections is concentrated in Zuid-Holland, where 628 cases were recorded in the last two weeks – 41.2% of the total.

A week ago the province recorded 392 cases over the previous 14 days. Noord-Holland also had a steep rise from 165 cases to 297, while infections in Zeeland tripled from 19 to 60.

The four northern provinces of Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe and Flevoland had just 25 cases between them in the last two weeks.

Opposition parties called on Wednesday for the government to step up its efforts after it emerged that the number of infections increased by 85% in the last week. The orthodox Christian SGP group called for prime minister Mark Rutte and health minister Hugo de Jonge to hold another press conference to reiterate the social distancing rules.

Coalition party CDA said the public health agency RIVM should publish twice-weekly bulletins rather than one a week, while Labour (PvdA), GroenLinks and the ChristenUnie asked if people travelling from countries with rising infection rates, such as Croatia, were being checked on arrival.

RIVM figures showed that 7.1% of people who tested positive for the virus in the last two weeks had recently travelled abroad.

Regional measures

Meanwhile, Henri Lefenrik, mayor of Leiden and chair of the regional safety council for Hollands-Midden, warned that a return to lockdown in the area could not be ruled out if infections continued to rise, after 23 cases were traced to a cafe in Hillegom.

‘The number of coronavirus infections in Hillegom is still too low for a regional lockdown, but we’re close to that level,’ he told Omroep West. ‘It’s better to tighten up on a regional scale than across the whole country.

We tried it in the beginning in Brabant, but it was already so widespread that it wasn’t possible anymore. But if you act quickly it should work.’



Risk of second corona wave if people drop their guard, experts warn

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Health officials have voiced concern about a second wave of coronavirus infections caused by infected patients ignoring guidance to stay home.

The number of coronavirus infections increased by 185 on Monday, the highest daily figure recorded in more than a month. In pockets of Noord-Brabant the proportion of people testing positive has risen from 0.6% to 2.3% in recent days.

In Hillegom, Zuid-Holland, 23 new cases have been traced to a cafe. Sjaak de Gouw, director of the local health service, said hundreds more people locally could potentially have been infected.

Anne-Marieke Zijden, director of public health for the GGD West-Brabant, told AD that more people in infected areas were being tested for the virus, but many were ignoring advice to stay home while they waited for the results.

‘Our staff regularly have people on the phone who go for a walk-in town after their test, or visit friends, or still go to work,’ she said. ‘People’s behaviour is making us very concerned.’

Her words were echoed by Bart Berden, director of the Elisabeth-TweeSteden Hospital in Tilburg and chair of the regional acute healthcare liaison committee (ROAZ).

‘We’re seeing people catching up with parties that were planned during the lockdown and companies calling on their workers to go back to the office,’ he said.



‘Wake-up call’ as coronavirus cases in Netherlands almost double in a week

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of new coronavirus infections almost doubled in the third week of July, according to latest figures from the public health agency RIVM.

A total of 987 new cases were recorded between July 15 and July 21, an 85% increase on the previous week’s figure of 534.

The Rt number, which represents the reproduction rate of the virus, rose to 1.29, the first time since March that it has been higher than 1. A Rt rate of more than 1 means each patient is infecting more than 1 other person and the total number of cases is rising.

Another 19 patients were admitted to hospital, twice as many as a week ago, while seven more deaths were recorded. Officially 6,136 people have died of Covid-19 since the outbreak began.

More testing

Aura Timen of the National Co-ordination Centre for Infectious Disease Control, said: ‘If we go on like this the virus could beat us. This is a wake-up call: we can’t just carry on.

‘We’ve suppressed this virus together by keeping to the rules well. We need to go back to that behaviour.’ The increase in cases is partly explained by more people taking coronavirus tests – up from 75,000 to nearly 90,000 in the last week – but the positive test rate has also gone up by two-thirds from 0.6% to 1.0%.

Around the regions the biggest increases were in Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland, while Zeeland also saw a relatively large rise. In the northern provinces of Groningen, Drenthe, Friesland and Flevoland coronavirus cases remain extremely low.



Fewer premature babies were born during lockdown: Erasmus MC

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Researchers from the Erasmus teaching hospital in Rotterdam believe that there was a decrease in the number of premature babies born in the Netherlands while the country was under lockdown.

A similar drop was observed during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak in other European countries including Denmark and Ireland, according to the New York Times.

Premature babies – those born before 32 weeks of gestation – are at greater risk of a variety of health problems, including neurological issues, vision and hearing problems and premature death.

Irish and Danish doctors reported a 90% drop in significantly premature babies, born earlier than 28 weeks, but the fall in the Netherlands was said to be “slight,” reports NOS.

It is unclear what was causing the decrease. Some researchers speculate that during lockdowns, pregnant women may have slept for more hours and spent less time on their feet. Others suggest that a decrease in air pollution may have played a role.



Coronavirus daily infections rise, while concerns raised about accuracy of ‘dashboard’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Daily coronavirus infections have risen by the highest daily amount in a month, while some researchers raised concerns that the official ‘coronavirus dashboard’ is not registering all instances.

On Sunday, the RIVM reported 144 positive tests while on Saturday there were 127, reports NOS.

Andreas Voss, a professor of infection prevention at Radboud teaching hospital in Nijmegen, and member of the Outbreak Management Team, told NPO Radio that the rise was ‘to be expected after relaxing the lockdown’ and predicted more hospital admissions in four or five weeks.

However, Marino van Zelst, a student at Tilburg University, told the NRC that he believes 264 too few infections have been measured this month by the dashboard. The paper reports that this dashboard is judged a crucial weapon by the government to measure how far to continue relaxing controls – or whether to impose new ones.

Van Zelst claimed that the problems were related to corrections of previous faults in the numbers. A spokesperson for the RIVM confirmed that there are corrections of the numbers, but told the paper that the number of positive tests reported depended above all on people’s willingness to get the test.

Last week, the RIVM reported that more than eight in 10 Dutch people with cold symptoms are not requesting a corona test, although a fifth are staying home.



Catering trade to ask courts to force relaxation of 1.5 metre distance rule

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Owners of bars, restaurants and cafes are taking the government to court in a bid to relax the 1.5 metre social distancing rules. Catering sector businesses say the rules that have been in force since they reopened in May are an excessive restriction on their trade and are more strict than those that apply to other sectors.

Bars and restaurants have to ensure customers keep 1.5 metres apart, except for those in family groups, or use plastic screens to prevent the virus spreading across tables.

Smaller establishments in particular have struggled to stay afloat because of the limited number of customers they can cater for. The umbrella body Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN) has applied for an injunction to force the government to relax the rules, arguing that the current situation violates their constitutional rights.

KHN also wants objective criteria to be applied so businesses can better anticipate when the rules can be relaxed further. The injunction hearing is due to take place on July 23.

Robèr Willemsen, chairman of KHN, said the organisation was taking legal action because talks with the government had failed to produce constructive results. ‘There are definitely ways the rules can be relaxed further in a responsible way with due consideration to public health.

But when you’re faced with a counterpart that is offers no co-operation at all, you have to draw your conclusions and try a different route,’ he said. Justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus said he was ‘surprised’ by the industry’s decision to take legal action. ‘The cabinet has always said it is prepared to talk to all sectors, including KHN,’ he said.



Trust in politics and institutions rose during corona, but new prejudice could remain

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Trust in politics and politician has risen during the coronavirus epidemic – but this is probably only temporary, according to a report from government think tank the SCP.

The institution, which measures social and cultural change in the Netherlands, found a sharp rise in trust in law and order, the government, but also the media, unions and large companies as the coronavirus started.

In April, these trust levels were at their highest in more than a decade, and trust in government and the lower house rose the most. However, based on similar patterns in previous crises, the researchers Emily Miltenburg and Joep Schaper warn that most things will probably return to normal afterwards.

‘If the crisis is present for longer, one worrying issue may be discrimination and stigmatisation against groups who, in people’s eyes, had something to do with making the virus,’ they warn.

The report notes an increase in reports about discrimination in the Netherlands against people with an eastern or Asian appearance since the coronavirus epidemic began.

It also says some older people ‘feel discriminated against in the public debate if the suggestion is made that saving their lives should not have priority if the economy suffers, or that their increased risk is their own fault.’


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