News

Support for hospital staff (Or: That’s one giant bear)

I’m sure we have all heard stories around the world of creative ways of supporting hospital workers this year.

A local hospital in Delft now has a 15 foot high plant-based teddy bear to call their own (omroepwest.nl). The bear is supported by an invisible steel frame on the inside and covered in winter-hardened plants. The hope is that it can survive at least five years (!).

Also plant (well, mushroom) related:

This coffin helps speed up body decomposition (two to three years instead of up to ten years), giving nutrients to the nearby soil. It also has the benefit of being a rather lightweight coffin that can still carry up to about 450 pounds (220 kg).

I’m intrigued, but mainly because I would have figured this was already possible. But it’s a nice advancement.

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New corona measures likely (Or: Press conference on Friday)

So, news broke this afternoon that there would be another press conference on Friday. One expectation is that additional corona measures will be passed for the bigger Dutch cities, including Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. However, news hasn’t leaked yet on what the measures will be, because the government and the regions are still finalizing them.

This news comes on a day when the Netherlands registered more than 1,500 infections in the last 24 hours, which is easily a new record. RIVM released the weekly Covid-19 update yesterday, noting the rising percentage of positive tests (2.8% two weeks ago versus 3.9% last week) among other things. The number of people getting tested was almost 200,000, and most people now need to wait more than 72 hours to get tested. And we’re not even in the flu season yet. Yikes!

Swell of new coronavirus cases as 1,546 test positive, Over 1,000 in Randstad from nltimes.nl (Randstad being the four big cities, including Utrecht in the middle of the country).

Rumors of new Covid restrictions as Dutch PM schedules Friday press conference, also from nltimes.nl.

A portion of the issue comes from student organizations, as new clusters of dozens of students are reported on a daily basis. But that’s not the full picture either – it’s clear to see that some people no longer care about keeping their distance from others and the city centre gets more packed by the day. It will be interesting to see what the next few days bring.

(With all of that doom and gloom, I will say it’s going well for Marco and I. We’re working hard but we’re looking forward to a few days off to celebrate our 7th anniversary this weekend.)

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A month of festivities (Or: Biggest carnival in the Netherlands at the Malieveld)

On Friday the biggest carnival in the Netherlands this year opened at the Malieveld. Over 90 attractions have been set up. The carnival is open a full month (11 September to 11 October). Check out some photos over at denhaagfm.nl:

The local news site Omroep West has some more information about the corona precautions, including two entrances and exits fitted with a digital counting system (the maximum visitors at any one time is 5,000, which still seems like a lot). There are also extra wide paths in most areas.

With that being said, I think I’ll skip it this year. Marco and I usually only take a walk around it and maybe buy some oliebollen before we leave. And now the city has promised us oliebollen from 1 October, so we should be fine to wait a few more weeks for that.

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More than applause (Or: Shoes at the Malieveld)

While out walking today I spotted some shoes by the Malieveld. And by “some shoes” I actually mean hundreds of pairs of shoes. Today healthcare workers held a demonstration called #meerdanapplaus (more than applause). You can probably guess what that is about – it’s great that everyone claps for healthcare workers, but what about giving them a raise and hiring more workers to to prevent burnout? The sector did receive an 1000 euro bonus and is slated to receive a 500 euro bonus next year but more could be done.

Due to the corona restrictions, the healthcare workers couldn’t be there in person, so they sent their shoes instead. (After the demonstration the shoes will be sent to various charities.)

In a similar vein, do you remember my post about Irma Sluis, the Dutch sign language interpreter who stole the hearts of thousands with her “panic buying” sign? In Dutch panic buying (or hoarding) is translated as hamsteren, since hamsters are known to squirrel away food. Since there was no official sign for that term in Dutch sign language, it was created earlier that day.

The Tweede Kamer (Dutch House of Representatives) passed a motion earlier this week to recognize Dutch sign language as an official language (nos.nl, article in Dutch). The language is used by about 15,000 residents. The law also states that Dutch sign language interpreters must be used more often by the government, for example during important press conferences. The article mentions the fact that sign language courses have seen a huge boost due to the “Irma” effect, although there is still more that could be done. At least it is something positive to come out of this crazy year.

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First cautious steps (Or: Press conference in the Netherlands)

Prime minister Mark Rutte and RIVM director Jaap van Dissel held a national press conference this evening to discuss the corona situation in The Netherlands, including which measures could be relaxed and which needed to be extended.

Official rules in Dutch are available at rijksoverheid.nl. Here are some highlights in English:

  • Events are cancelled through 1 September (was 1 June)
    • Festivals are cancelled (like Pinkpop)
    • No soccer games (yikes)
  • Elementary schools (ages 4-12) can open from 11 May
    • Children will go to class every other day. The day when they are not physically at school they will get online lessons (there is some flexibility with this one, as schools can adjust that as needed)
    • Special education elementary schools will completely open from 11 May with no restriction
    • Parents are asked to bring their children to school via bike or car if possible, to avoid congestion in public transportation
    • Secondary schools (ages 12-18) are not open yet, but are expected to open on 1 June
    • Daycares can also open from 11 May
      • After-school care follows the school’s schedule – it is possible on days the children attend school
      • Sports: from 29 April, children up to 12 years can train as a team, without keeping the 1.5 meters rule.
      • Sports: Children aged 12-18 can train with their team if the 1.5 meter rule is honored. No official games will be played.

And the rules that haven’t changed and will likely be in effect through 19 May:

  • It is still forbidden to visit anyone in a nursing or care home.
  • Restaurants and cafes are still only allowed to offer takeaway and delivery (no dine in option).
  • Everyone should still work from home and stay at home as much as possible
  • If anyone in the family is sick (e.g. with a fever), everyone in the family stays home
  • Wash your hands often
  • Grocery shopping should be done alone
  • Public transportation is still only to be used by those with vital occupations
  • “Contact” jobs like hairdressers, nail salons, beauty salons and similar are still closed
    • However the Prime Minister did say that dentists are allowed to open again during the Q&A session after the press conference

In the week before 19 May, the Dutch government will hold another press conference describing what measures will be lifted or extended.

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A Saturday morning like any other? (Or: Changing times in The Netherlands)

As you are well aware, most countries are taken precautions against the corona virus. On Thursday evening, the Dutch prime minister announced additional precautions which are currently in effect through March 31: where possible, work from home. No gatherings of more than 100 people are allowed. Universities and higher education institutions are closing their doors, but also trying to get online learning set up in the meantime. For now, the lower schools are still open.

Information from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and Environment (in English). Stats are updated daily around 14:00 CET.

Work from home if possible

While the press conference was held on Thursday evening, most of my coworkers and I did go into work on Friday. We received word late in the day that the office would be closed from 13:00 on Monday, with only supervised entry allowed between then and March 31.

We have Monday morning to get anything we need from the building, although most of us saw this coming and started bringing stuff home on Thursday. There were limited monitors available for people to take home, although they went fast.

In theory I don’t mind working from home. It’s doable, if not always comfortable. It’s not something I would willingly do, however. At least our company is pretty prepared – another office in a different country has already been closed for 5 weeks (!!).

I’m looking forward to going back in when this is all over, although there were a lot of jokes going around that we wouldn’t see each other for months. A few coworkers were flying back home (England, Spain, etc.) to be closer to family in the meantime. Their theory was they can work from anywhere and at least this way if they got stuck in a country it would be with their family.

No gatherings of 100 or more people

This decision is country wide. Some provinces have taken it a step farther and said that gatherings of 100 or more people would be punishable. Some aspects of daily life are affected that you wouldn’t expect: for instance the Central Library in the city centre is closed, because there are generally more than 100 patrons inside. For the moment the smaller branches are open, although all events are canceled through the end of the month.

Other events that are in jeopardy in the next few months are the Dutch Grand Prix (2020 was the first time it was to be held in The Netherlands since 1985) and the Eurovision song contest to be held in Rotterdam.

School openings / closure

The Dutch prime minister has faced a LOT of criticism for allowing the lower schools to stay open. His reasoning is that children are not the target age group for getting the virus and that it would bring the economy to a standstill. However, children can still be carriers… Either way, I suspect there will be a press conference on Sunday evening at the latest saying they are changing their mind and schools will be closed from Monday.

‘Hamsteren’ – frenzied stockpiling

Shortly after the press conference a lot of people went to the supermarkets and raided items like toilet paper, pasta, rice… ‘Hamsteren’ is a Dutch verb for what hamsters do, taking as much as they can and then more. The supermarket Albert Heijn was one of the harder hit. Yesterday on Twitter the posted this tweet:

It’s a message saying that they understand that some products are temporarily not available. They then go on to say that the distribution centers are full and that stores are supplied multiple times a day. They are working as hard as they can to keep the shelves stocked. If you’re on the AH mailing list you also received a longer email last night talking about the situation (both keeping the shelves full and disinfecting the store) to help put customers at ease.

Of course, it doesn’t stop people from stockpiling. Here’s a look at an Albert Heijn at lunchtime yesterday:

Still some potatoes left to grab, of course. Or harder hit, the toilet paper / paper towels area:

Who needs toilet paper. 🙂 It was also very busy in the store with lines everywhere. Not fun when you’re just coming in to get some lunch.

Marco and I went after work to another Albert Heijn and it was quieter. But by then the pasta, rice, eggs and most of the chicken were gone. Don’t get me wrong, though. There’s still plenty of food in the store. It’s the same thing that happens when a storm hits. It happens. It’s just hard for people to ignore the herd mentality of stockpiling. It’s hard for me to ignore, but that’s why I have Marco, who is much more logical than I am.

And finally, a video from Instagram/TikTok where someone splices over an Albert Heijn logo and the Albert Heijn theme song during some scenes of the movie World War Z:

Stay safe, everyone!

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New Year’s Eve (Or: Waiting in line for oliebollen)

Similar to a post I did last year – here’s a look at the line of people waiting for oliebollen on New Year’s Eve. Oliebollen is a sort of doughnut covered in powdered sugar.

image

Waiting for Godot (and oliebollen)

And be a look at the stand itself (voted #1 this year in The Hague):

image

This was around 12pm – Marco said the line was about twice as long (by the library) around 2pm. Crazy. This year they even had a street organ playing music for those waiting, which was a nice touch.

Fine jaarwisseling! Happy New Year!

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Dr Anton Philipszaal (Or: Tearing it down)

This afternoon I was out and about in the Centrum I noticed that the tearing down of Dr. Anton Philipszaal (a concert hall and theatre) was beginning in earnest. They have begun to tear down the red part of the roof:

Dr Anton Philipszaal being torn down 2015

The hall was first built in 1987 and is slated to be replaced in 2019 with a new culture center. Until then the theatre has moved to a temporary location on the Scheveningen beach, Zuidstrandtheatre.

And of course you have the tram work in the foreground. That project started in April of last year and will hopefully be done this summer. Once done the newer trams should be able to ride over the rails.

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Time to party! (Or: A tram ride through The Hague)

Get ready for the party tram…!

Party tram in The Hague

Unfortunately the party tram isn’t able to prevent me from taking blurry pictures, but it was moving at the time so there is that.

This was taken around the Centrum tram stop (Centrum=city center). You can rent the trams out for a group and enjoy a festive ride through the city. You also have a similar type of tram where you can ride around while you enjoy a meal. It’s seems interesting, but I haven’t riden on one yet.

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Blue and green (Or: Greetings from the Irish countryside)

On Saturday Marco and I visited a friend who lives in the Wicklow Mountains, just south of Dublin. It was nice to see another side of Dublin, rather than just the city center…

Irish countryside - Wicklow Mountains 2

Apparently the lake is man-made, having been filled in the 1930s or thereabouts.

Irish countryside - Wicklow Mountains

The lake through the trees…

And a bonus photo of the Samuel Beckett bridge (designed to look like a harp lying on its side, an iconic Irish icon) and behind it the Dublin convention center with its tilted glass atrium (54 meters high).

Samuel Beckett bridge in Dublin

Samuel Beckett bridge, with the Dublin convention center directly behind it.

And this (probably) concludes my Dublin related posts. Probably. I hope you enjoyed them!

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