News

Awww (Or: Cute little bikes)

Apparently even the littlest bikes can be left out on the street. It is very Dutch, although I don’t see usually bikes this small on the street:

And in other news, the Netherlands have managed to mess things up again yet. Even with the delta variant starting to hit Europe, they decided to relax more measures than expected in late June, including only requiring face maks on public transportation and opening dance clubs without social distancing restrictions. To enter the dance club one needed to either be vaccinated or take a test that was not older than 40 hours. But one could be considered “vaccinated” if they received the J&J vaccine earlier in the day and went clubbing that night. And as you know, it takes a bit of time to build up some protection, especially against the Delta variant…

Check it out:

And really, I think the only reason today is lower is that it is Sunday. If we continue at this rate testing numbers will look like they have stabilized but in reality we have merely hit the maximum number of tests we can analyze per day.

See also: Misuse of access testing may be behind Covid outbreak at Enschede club from nltimes.nl. Out of 600 visitors, 180 of them got corona. This was the first weekend dance clubs were open again.

Note: I don’t think it was the fault of anyone who visited dance clubs, especially not in the first weekend. Clubs have been closed for over a year, so of course people will be desperate to go there, especially with the carrot of not needing to social distance. And yes, the Dutch government is following the UK model where a higher amount of cases is okay provided the number of hospital admissions or deaths does not increase drastically. But it would have been a bit better if they could have waited an extra 4-6 weeks so that more people could get fully vaccinated.

It just means I am counting down the days until my second vaccine even more than before. Almost there!

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Another world (Or: Flash flooding in southeast Netherlands)

It has been quite rainy in the Netherlands this week. Today was no different – highs were around 16C/60F with showers off and on the whole day. And nearby Scheveningen was host to one of the most dangerous forms of lightning strikes this past Saturday (article from nltimes.nl). It was indeed rather loud.

Last night there was a storm hanging over Germany, the southeast part of the Netherlands and Belgium. And it decided to just sit there for hours, pouring down rain. See this tweet:

And another tweet can be found here.

In other news:

[Dutch] Broadcaster apologizes for Nazi subtitle reference during Euro’s Germany anthem from nltimes.nl. Opps?

Video of 15 year old driving Limburg train under investigation from nltimes.nl. I want to say “Opps?” here too, except that this one was actually deliberate…

Click here if you want to see what an exploded work/service bus looks like (regio15.nl). The police are working on the theory that it was due to a gas canister inside the bus exploding. The driver was seriously injured (rumor is he was getting into the vehicle when it happened) and 20 houses have exploded windows, but it could have been worse.

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Peer pressure (Or: Who still wears a face mask?)

Let me tell you, it is weird to walk into a supermarket and see only 33% of the workers and customers still wearing a face mask. Today the Netherlands dropped most of the corona restrictions: Full list of coronavirus restrictions as of June 26 from nltimes.nl.

It is weird to see others’ faces inside. I still have a face mask on, both for myself and others who aren’t vaccinated yet. It’s possible some appointments could be moved up but some of the younger folk won’t get their first shot until the first week of July and they second shot in mid-August. Right now the Netherlands has a 5 week gap between the first and second shots for Pfizer and Moderna, although maybe if we are lucky and there is extra supply they will bring the second shot forward to 4 weeks? We’ll see.

At this point you only need to wear a face mask on public transportation or in areas where you can’t keep 1.5 meters (5 distance) from others. As the prime minister Mark Rutte says, everything that is possible at 1.5 meters is allowed again. For instance you can go back to work 50% of the time if social distancing can be maintained. The sale of alcohol and marijuana is again allowed after 22:00 and there is no restriction on opening hours for restaurants or cafĂ©s.

One interesting thing is that night clubs are allowed to be open again, having been closed since March 2020 (!). Since social distancing is all but impossible, you either need to have proof that you are fully vaccinated or you need to take a corona test; the negative test can be no older than 40 hours old. Of course, to enter the night club you need to have your negative test result. One problem with that? Covid access testing waiting times caused by cyberattack from nltimes.nl. Yep, the testen voor toegang (tests for entry) platform was hacked yesterday causing some test results to arrive hours too late or not arrived at all. Most problems seem to be fixed today, at least.

Some other news:

Silent disco ended over noise complaints from nltimes.nl. What are silent discos, you ask? Everyone wears headphones while they listen to the music, making it seem like everyone is dancing to nothing. “Many people were shouting to one another in the house, according to the newspaper. Attendees were wearing headphones, and were unable to hear each other without raising their voices.” Opps?

Let out coronavirus frustration at Vijfhuizen “rage room” from nltimes.nl. Here is a snippet: “At the demolition site in Vijfhuizen, a special route has been set up allowing visitors to vent their rage for as little as 25 euros. It starts with smashing cups and plates on six stacked cars defaced with text such as ‘curfew’ or ‘work from home’. In the next part, visitors frustrated with working from home are able to unleash their anger by breaking a printer or a monitor.”

Hmmm…

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One shot is enough (Or: Janssen mania in the Netherlands)

For the American readers among us, Janssen is the J&J vaccination. The Netherlands has one of three factories in the world producing the vaccine. The name of the Dutch company producing it is Janssen, hence why it has a different name here in Europe. The distribution of the Janssen vaccine in the Netherlands (and Europe) isn’t that high, though. Here in the Netherlands we have received about 250,000 Janssen shots compared to 10 million Pfizer shots.

A month or two ago the Dutch government decided that due to the extremely rare risk of blood clots the vaccine would not be given to anyone under the age of 60. However, more recently the government decided to allow everyone 18 and older the choice to book a Janssen vaccine appointment, from today. There are 200,000 vaccines available. There are some advantages, especially for those who want to travel over the summer. You only need one shot and you can generally get a Janssen appointment much faster than two appointments for Pfizer or Moderna. Some lucky souls were able to book a Janssen appointment from this Friday. Otherwise that age group was looking at getting their second vaccine appointment in mid-August.

The government also makes it easy to switch your appointments. Everyone was encouraged to book mRNA vaccine (Pfizer/Moderna) appointments even if there was a chance you might want Janssen instead. Provided you haven’t received your first shot yet you are allowed to call and switch your appointment to Janssen, no questions asked. It has always been easy to switch your appointments here in the Netherlands, though it gets a bit more complicated if you want two different locations or you are re-booking your second appointment when you got Moderna during your first appointment since Moderna is much rarer here.

The thing is, the government announced a few weeks ago that anyone over the age of 18 would be able to book an Janssen appointment this week but that there would only be 200,000 doses available. A few days ago they announced that you could call from today, however the phone number to call wasn’t released until this morning. The government had 3,500 workers on standby to take calls.

…you can imagine the chaos, yes?

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Incentives to get jabbed (Or: Free fish anyone?)

The Guardian reported that some Dutch vaccination centers are offering free pickled herring as an incentive to get the vaccine. June 15 is usually Vlaggetjesdag (Dutch Wikipedia), translated as “little flag day” because fishing ships would be decorated with flags on the Saturday before Pentecost. It is the day that the season’s first barrel of herring is auctioned off for a good cause and the day that herring starts appearing in supermarkets. Last year the first barrel was given to medical workers and this year the first barrel was given to the GGD health service; GGD is responsible for Covid-19 vaccinations in the Netherlands.

If you were lucky enough to be around IJmuiden you could also receive free herring after your vaccination (article from Haarlems Dagblad, but it’s behind a paywall).

In case you are wondering: I would politely decline if I was offered any. But for some Dutchies the first herring of the year can be a big thing.

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Half vaccinated (And: Face mask and working from home news)

First off: while the government has not officially announced it, the requirement to wear a face mask and the strong advice to work at home will probably disappear from 26 June. Two exceptions: you still need to wear a face mask in public transportation (but probably not supermarkets). You can also only go back to work if your office can guarantee that you are keeping the 1.5 meters rule (5 feet).

Dutch article from nos.nl: Mondkapjes af en niet langer thuiswerken mits 1,5 meter afstand per 26 juni

English article from dutchnews.nl: Have face masks had their day? They are up for discussion, minister confirms

My thought? It feels a bit rushed, on both counts. I’ve gotten used to wearing face masks (at least inside or on my way to somewhere inside). Working from the office? I’m not sure about that either. Previously my office said not before 1 September. But either way, they said people could work from home if they wanted through December, at which time the policy would be reviewed again.

In even bigger news: I got my first vaccination today (Pfizer)! I definitely felt the shot right away; it pinched a bit but nothing bad. My arm has been getting more sore throughout the day but it hasn’t affected typing or anything like that. I also have a bit of a headache, but as that started before the shot I’m not sure if it is related or not.

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Tuesday tidbits (Or: Random news here and there)

Around lunchtime today I went to The Guardian’s website to check the news. Instead, I see a white screen with a tiny error message. As I have done countless times over the years, I then went to to Down for Everyone or Just Me. The website reassured me that the error wasn’t just on my side. Around then work got crazy again, so I forgot about it for a while (until work was less crazy and I could actually make some lunch).

It turns out the error hit more than just The Guardian. See also this article: Massive internet outage hits websites including Amazon, gov.uk and Guardian from theguardian.com. The best part of the article? This quote: “The Guardian moved to Twitter to run a dedicated liveblog, while tech news site the Verge published news to a shared Google Doc – until a reporter accidentally shared a link on Twitter that allowed the audience to edit it.” Opps…?

Also, from dutchnews.nl: Zandvoort organisers expect 50,000 F1 fans to cycle to Grand Prix. In other words, park at a nearby parking lot and hop on a bike to get to the race track. This September, the Netherlands will be hosting the first Dutch Grand Prix since 1985 (!). It was supposed to happen last year but it was cancelled due to corona. The organizers rightfully did not want to hold the race without fans. I suspect there would have been huge riots if they had tried. The best part (even though it is not in the article)? There will also be a special bus line with the number #33 – aka, Max Verstappen’s number.

And from nltimes.nl: GGD Utrecht gives away 1,200 Covid-19 vaccines after power failure kills cold storage. The best part here? They had so many people show up they had to turn people away. Of course, the vaccines were first offered to healthcare workers or safety workers in the region and then the offer was opened to the public. It was 1,200 Janssen vaccines (J&J vaccines for any Americans reading this) so one shot was enough. The site brought in extra workers to manage the crowds and stayed open past midnight. Nicely done!

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Art and politics (Or: Exhibition in The Hague library)

The Hague’s central library currently has an exhibition entitled “Tekenen in Vrijheid?!” or “Freedom to draw”, where political cartoons from different parts of the world are on display. The exhibition also celebrates 75 years of freedom (since WWII) and the United Nations’ 75th anniversary (special website at un.org). The exhibition is available through 17 June and can be found on the 2nd floor, near the escalators.

The Turkish president Erdogan as a cat entangled in a ball of woll. See also this article from BBC news.

A general look at the more political cartoons on display. There was a lot to look at – I definitely recommend visiting if you are in the area.

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Bring on the weekend (Or: Friday has arrived)

This work week went by pretty fast, I must admit. This morning my company sent out an email about the “return to the office”. Spoiler: it won’t happen before 1 September at the earliest, although we were first told that date back around Christmas last year. Kudos to them for seeing how the future would play out. The new tidbit was that any return would be optional (and at the employee’s discretion) until at least December, when that part of the policy would be reviewed again. They were also considering what a future “work from home” policy would look like post corona. Previously it was possible to work from home one day a week, so we’ll see if they extend that to two days.

In other news: T-Mobile to refund people whose Eurovision votes were not counted from nltimes.nl. Casting your vote for the winner of the Eurovision contest last month meant sending a text message to a certain number. Unfortunately for some people in the Netherlands, they received a text message hours later saying that the event had already ended and they could no longer vote, meaning that the vote was held up somewhere and thus declared invalid.

Exiting lockdown: Relaxations implemented June 5, also from nltimes.nl. Tomorrow will see step 3 of 6 of the “re-opening” plan being activated. Steps 4 and 5 will take place (together) at the end of this month, if all goes well. Step 6 is removing the restriction of wearing face masks inside and keeping 1.5 meters distance. There is no official date for when step 6 will happen yet.

Partially linking to it for the funny name, from theguardian.com: Roboats: Amsterdam to trial self-driving electric boats. However it will take at least 2 to 4 years before they could be used in a “real life” situation.

And here is an article from omroepwest.nl in Dutch: Kinderen krijgen verkeersparcours in Schilderswijk dankzij ‘positieve fllitspaal’. In other words, the neighborhood put up a speed meter in the area. There was a sign explaining that motorists sticking to the posted speed limit (50km/h) would cause a small automatic donation. The total amount of funds that could be raised was 1,000 euros. That goal was reached and the neighborhood decided to spend it on a traffic course for kids so that they could learn how to safely navigate in traffic as pedestrians or cyclists. (I do think Dutch kids learn how to cycle while still in the womb. At any rate, they learn to cycle at a very young age.)

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A hint of sun (Or: Better weather this weekend)

It looks like better weather will be coming later this week, although of course the best weather falls on Monday and Tuesday next week (24C or 75F). Still, bring it on! It will be nice to be outside again without a jacket on, and feel the sun’s warmth on my skin.

The Hague’s police department held another “turn in your weapons” action in the last week. This one was under the hashtag #dropit. They received more than 650 weapons, including 30 firearms. Th firearms were picked up at home by plain clothed officers in unmarked cars. The rest could be brought to the police station Check out the photo (there are more in the linked article):

What struck me with the photos–especially in the linked article–was how structured the weapons are placed on the table. Someone with a design-forward mind was definitely thinking about how to place the weapons to make the best photographs. My second thought was just how many weapons that actually is! Every corner of that table is covered, plus more weapons on the ground. The police also said they were happy with the action even though they were not expecting to get so many.

In other news: Digitisation project answers questions about Dutch colonial trade in minutes from dutchnews.nl. The project will digitize 25 million handwritten documents from the business administration of the Dutch East Indies company. This will allow researchers to search the documents within minutes. The only problem, of course, is that the handwritten documents are from the 17th and 18th centuries, which means the search results will also be in 17th/18th century Dutch and will thus need to be translated.

Some good news: anyone with a birth year of 1969 or 1970 can make an appointment for a corona vaccine. It is looking better in the Netherlands. However we are still in the top 5 for number of cases in Europe, so as always – patience is required. See also: Dutch Covid hospitalizations 53% below peak; ICU total near 10-week low from nltimes.nl in English.

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