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Friday, December 3, 2021

Covid: Dutch accept life within ‘lockdown-lite’


Twinkling fairy lights embellish the Linden trees around the Dutch parliament square.

Flames warm friends huddled beneath heaters glowing amber against the autumnal dusk.

While the anti-lockdown, anti-vax protesters and conspiracy propagators who hurled fireworks at riot police dominated the front pages, they represent a minority.

Most Dutch people reluctantly agree that sacrificing some aspects of their social lives can help the greater good.

In response to an increase in infections, the Dutch government has announced a lockdown-lite designed to limit social contacts. This week, a record 16,324 new cases were recorded in one day, and the number remains stubbornly high.

“I do believe it affects young people disproportionately,” says Saskia Heyster, who is concerned about her mental health.

“My studies can be stressful; during the last lockdown, I became overwhelmed by the stress of managing everything. I really enjoy having a cup of coffee without feeling like I’m breaking the law. I’m hoping to have more time to devote to activities that don’t involve going out for drinks. But, to be honest, I’ve been having a nervous breakdown.”

Neill Bo Finlayson said people are now well conditioned to lockdowns

“It’s gutting, frustrating,” Neill Bo Finlayson, who has just finished his pint, says.

“Lockdown after lockdown, in my experience. It’s especially difficult because we’ve just seen what life can be like, but public safety comes first, and you have to do what you have to do. The rules aren’t that stringent, and we’ve grown accustomed to them.”

“Mental health should be treated the same as physical health, and we young people are the ones who are most affected by these measures – physically and mentally,” says Natasja, who admits she is afraid of loneliness if the measures last longer than the three weeks planned.

In the past, the Netherlands has been chastised for taking a relatively lax approach.

This liberal, conservative country was among the last in the world to make face masks mandatory, and it was also among the slowest in Europe to implement its vaccination programme.

However, with intensive care units nearly full, operations cancelled, and struggling German hospitals warning that they will not accept patients from across the border, this initial short sharp shock is viewed as critical to bringing the record-breaking daily infection numbers under control.

The new restrictions have been widely referred to as a “partial lockdown,” but life will continue largely unaffected during the day.

Between 06:00 and 20:00, bars, cafes, and restaurants can continue to serve (QR codes required for diners who want to stay rather than take-away). Sports matches can take place, but without spectators, and coronavirus entry passes and assigned seats are required in food and beverage establishments.

Anti-lockdown protests have taken place in The Hague

The mandatory closing time does not apply to artistic and cultural performances, such as those held in cinemas, theatres, or concert halls.

As a result, many people have speculated sarcastically whether the Dutch government considers Covid to be only transmissible after dark.

And the effects are already being felt.

Supermarkets were teeming with masked shoppers dodging each other in the aisles, stocking up on crates of beer and trolleys full of carbs.

House parties are discouraged, with a maximum of four visitors per day permitted, but everyone is aware that this rule is nearly impossible to enforce.

Just as they did the last time the bars and restaurants closed, our neighbours in The Hague are already pumping up the music and welcoming friends to ensure they are not left out.

There is a risk that these measures will exacerbate the virus’s spread at home, which, according to government statistics, already accounts for the majority of new infections.

Bas Swillens said the rules are unfairly penalising bars and cafes

The irony is noted by Bas Swillens, manager of Cafe Leopold on the cobblestone square outside parliament.

“We do everything possible to keep people safe; we check QR codes, people sit down… we are extremely cautious. No one is checking anything at home, and yet we are being blamed and penalised.”

At least four Dutch cities’ entrepreneurs have vowed to defy the early last orders rules.

The question is what will happen when – or if – councils decide to enforce them.

Clubs and restaurants in Belgium and Germany are reporting “red hot” booking lines, with Dutch nationals eager to ensure they have other places to party.

People who diligently wore their masks, kept their distances, and showed up for their jabs have expressed considerable frustration and consternation.

The widely held belief was that this obedience would be enough to fend off a fourth wave, or at the very least protect them from the consequences.

Around 84% of Dutch citizens have received the vaccine

Approximately 84 percent of Dutch adults have received all of their vaccinations. The majority of patients in Dutch hospitals have not received their immunisation.

One mother dropping her son off at ballet today did not have the required QR code Covid pass to enter. “Ik doe niet mee,” she explained, before taking her five-year-old inside and exiting the building.

We’d shared crackers and chatted the week before while our kids practised their pliés.

Carving divisions are the rules. Plans to create the 2G Covid passes, which will only give QR codes to those who have been immunised or have recently recovered from the virus, will further polarise the situation.

A few hours before the restrictions went into effect, families dressed up came out to see the traditional Sinterklaas arrival parade.

Floats and festivities made their way through the crowd-lined streets between the harbour and The Hague’s centre.

Overall, the Dutch show a determination to live within their means. However, many people are beginning to wonder when and how this will all come to an end.

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