News

This is a parking spot, right? (Or: Accidents in Utrecht)

Check out this accident in Utrecht by a student learning to drive:

It was the usual case of hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake. Opps! The driving student hit a small speed bump and then a bike rack. This caused the car to launch into the air and land onto another car (which was luckily unoccupied at the time).

This week’s vaccination goal is 1 million–the first time we will be over 1 million. See also the government’s corona dashboard in English. There will also be another press conference tomorrow. However, whether or not the planned relaxation of corona measures for step 2 will go ahead won’t be decided until next Monday. If the green light is given, measures would be relaxed from Wednesday, May 18. Think of things like re-opening zoos, amusement parks and gyms. Of course, we are most definitely not out of the woods yet.

A few doctors decided to set up a website today (prullenbakvaccin.nl in Dutch) to let people know when they had left over vaccines that would otherwise be thrown into the trashcan. The Dutch ministry of health is decidedly not happy with them. People can search for and sign up right before the time slot to receive them, although it is still possible that the vaccine will not be available when they arrive. See more at the NOS live blog (in Dutch). There are only a few location choices and I don’t expect the website to get very far. Interestingly one of the locations earlier today has already disappeared.

Let’s see if the website is still available tomorrow…

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Lights above the Netherlands (Or: Elon Musk’s satellites)

Mysterious lights above the Netherlands turn out to be satellites from Elon Musk) – nos.nl, article in Dutch. The satellites are part of his Starlink project which aims to put 12,000 satellites into low orbit by 2024 so that everyone in the world can have fast internet. (Nice goal, but wow, space is already really crowded!)

And another space-related article: Chinese rocket’s chaotic fall to Earth highlights problem of space junk from the guardian.com. Experts have no idea where it will land – anywhere in the southern hemisphere is currently a possibility. You can follow its path from orbit.ing-now.com. They predict it will crash in the next 12 hours. Its current speed as it spins around the earth is 26,183km/h (17,518 mph). Yikes! Oh, and did I mention this rocket is about 100 feet tall and weighs 22 tons? Here is hoping it either burns up in the atmosphere or lands in an ocean somewhere.

Today’s dinner menu? Saté with rice and peanut sauce, pickled peppers/onions and kroepoek. Saté is the one meal Marco and I made in America for my family (we stowed away the most important ingredients in our suitcases). Tasty stuff.

I can relate to this:

Hopefully in June I can go to the library and check out (physical) books again!

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Navigational failures (Or: Scheveningen’s pier mistaken for the harbor)

A few days ago a German speaking man accidentally rammed his yacht into the pier at Scheningen. In the dead of night he accidentally mistook the brightly lit pier for the harbor. Opps? The ship is most likely total loss. When he rammed into the pier it also knocked over some of the fencing above. Oh, and he is responsible for getting it towed.

And in other news:

Happy Friday, everyone.

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Say goodbye to the curfew? (Or: Another Dutch press conference)

First off, some great news: the European Medical Agency (EMA) has said that it safe to continue using the Janssen vaccine (Americans know it as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine). We only have about 80,000 doses in storage however we’re expecting about 3 million in the coming months. Since AstraZeneca is facing delays, this can help the Netherlands achieve their goal of giving everyone 16 years and older their first vaccine by 1 July. Even better, we’re going to start using Janssen from tomorrow: Netherlands to start using Janssen Covid vaccine on Wednesday from nltimes.nl.

There was another Dutch press conference tonight with prime minister Mark Rutte and health minister Hugo de Jonge. Although corona cases are still high in the Netherlands and similar to the numbers in January, de Jonge stated that the Netherlands has more protection thanks to ongoing vaccinations. Therefore the government will move forward with step 1 of their plan to relax corona measures from 28 April. Of course, that date is deliberately chosen as 27 April is a holiday here in the Netherlands (King’s Day).

Read more about step 1 over at the Dutch government’s website (actually available in English right away, for once!). These rules will take force as of 28 April. For full details, check the link:

  • the Dutch curfew from 23:00 to 04:30 will be abolished as of 04:30 on 28 April (again, the day after King’s Day – they are smart)
  • you can now have a maximum of 2 visitors at home per day instead of 1
  • outside restaurants terraces will be allowed to open from 12:00-18:00, with 1.5 meters distance
    • No more than 2 people at the same table unless all customers are from the same household
    • You are only allowed to go inside to pay, use the cloakroom or go to the bathroom. You must wear a face mask if you do.
  • appointments for shopping are no longer required at non-essential stores, but there is still a maximum number of customers who can be inside based on the store size and you must wear a face mask
    • Non-essential stores can be open from 06:00 to 20:00
    • Essential stores can operate at their normal opening times
    • general markets (aka outdoor markets) can now sell non-food items
  • you can have up to 100 attendees for a funeral

The next step of the reopening plan will not occur before 11 May (think of things like being able to go to gyms inside, zoos opening, etc.).

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Plans for het Spuiplein (Or: Lots of green)

The Hague has presented its tentative plan for how the Spuiplein will be transformed once all of the construction is complete in a few months. First, here is a reminder of how much area the construction is taking up in front of Amare, the building in the back:

It will be good once we can have all that space back. If you are less familiar with layout of The Hague, here is a look at where Spuiplein is in relation to city hall and the central library. The Hague has released an artist’s impression of how the area will look:

Translated it reads: “A plaza with green, water, sitting areas, benches and places for small events. This is how the Spuiplein will look occurring to the first proposal”. Between the green and the benches will be a long water basin (pictured above). There will also be open places to allow small events like street theatres, musical performances from university students, ballet or a movie in the open air.

Of course, the building (Amare) still needs to be delivered. Haags stadsbestuur dreigt met boete als bouwer Amare opleverdatum niet haalt from omroepwest.nl. In other words, The Hague is threatening to fine the builder of the Amare if they don’t deliver the building on time to the city (1 July 2021). …opps?

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Additional options (Or: Subway extension from Schiphol airport to Amsterdam)

Some good news for future travelers to Amsterdam from the Schiphol airport:

The funds comes from the National Growth Fund, a €20 billion fund for “boosting economic growth and maintaining prosperity” (dutchnews.nl from late last year). Public transportation, including transportation from the airport to the destination, have always been important factors for Marco and I when choosing what cities we wanted to visit. It is of course possible to also take the train to Amsterdam, but it is always good to have multiple choices when traveling anywhere.

And in other news: Oldest part of the Netherlands is 420 million years old and found in Zeeland from nltimes.nl. The previous rock found in the Netherlands was in South Limburg, in the southeast, and it was dated at 330 million years. Zeeland is found in the southwest of the country.

Family is not tourism: campaigners ask Dutch government to allow non-EU family visits from dutchnews.nl. At the moment the Netherlands does allow “sweetheart visas” for a romantic partner to enter the Netherlands, but there is no such visa for family members like parents, grandparents or children.

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Lazy Fridays (Or: Onward to the weekend)

Yay, we have reached the weekend! Did you know the Keukenhof, the largest garden in Europe, is now open on a limited basis? Keukenhof, cultural sites start welcoming visitors again from nltimes.nl. It is part of the government’s testing expansion (Netherlands to allow small crowds at football matches, theaters this month, also nltimes.nl). You can see the full list of participating institutions and dates at rijksoverheid.nl (in Dutch). The visitor needs to have a negative corona test that is not older than 40 hours. The tests are free but you need to go to certain locations to get tested and you must have the CoronaCheck app.

In other news: Rotterdam, The Hague announce bid to host Tour de France start from nltimes.nl. The bid would either be for 2024 or 2025. Rotterdam would host the opening stage, with an additional stage from Rotterdam to The Hague. The previous time the Netherlands hosted a few stages was back in 2015, when Utrecht was the host twice.

And Fietsers weg uit de Grote Marktstraat? Dat kan, maar gaat ten koste van parkeerplekken from omroepwest.nl. (Removing cyclists from the Grote Marktstraat? That is possible, but it will come at the cost of parking). The city has determined that it is possible to remove cyclists from the shopping area of the Grote Marktstraat, the large shopping street in The Hague’s city centre. This is because cyclists can use the parellel streets of Gedempte Gracht and Gedempte Burgwal, but 54 parking spots would need to be removed in the latter street to make sure cyclists have enough room.

Of course, the article then goes on to say that there is a possibility that cyclists can cycle tvia the Grote Markstraat before 11:30 daily, when the shops open. But that just means people won’t know the difference and will keep cycling through the area no matter the time of day. Although the city did successfully manage to ban scooters from using the Grote Markstraart so I guess anything is possible… we shall see!

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A lovely sunny day (Or: Counting down to the weekend)

Oh, I know it is only Wednesday. But I have Friday and Monday off, so the weekend will be extra long this time! Today was the last of the sunny days for a while. Of course you know what that means: Parks closed, alcohol banned as youngsters flock to the sunshine from dutchnews.nl. On the opposite end of the spectrum, thanks to daylight savings the government has agreed to allow the curfew to start at 22:00 instead of 21:00 (nltimes.nl), from tonight. Here is hoping people use that extra hour responsibly (exercise, etc.).

If you live in Utrecht or in the nearby area you can sign up for Utrecht’s open bar experiment (also nltimes.nl). Five bars will be open for business 14 April to 17 April (of course with social distancing in place). I suspect that one will be “sold out” within 20 minutes of going online, just like the concert experiments earlier in March. First Covid self-tests now available at Dutch pharmacies (also from nltimes.nl). These self-tests take 15 minutes to give a result. Their accuracy rate isn’t as high as the government tests but they can help in situations where you want to take a test before visiting your grandmother or grandchildren, for instance.

The above article talks about Scheveningen getting their own color system (green, orange*, red) to show how busy the area is. In extreme cases, code red can be called, allowing roads to be closed off. As the colors progress to orange and red, more “peace officers” (Wikipedia) could be called to the area.

* = Dutch like the color orange, so they use that instead of yellow.

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A new video from Keukenhof (Or: Beautiful tulips–online)

Unfortunately Keukenhof (English Wikipedia), one of the largest flower gardens in the world, won’t be able to open this year either. They have decided to post two short films a week instead so that people can see the work they put into getting the park ready.

Keukenhof ready to receive visitors – in the meantime, its flowers go online from dutchnews.nl

Dutch facility gets go-ahead to produce more AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines from nltimes.nl. The facility, based in nearby Leiden, is finally able to start officially producing AstraZeneca vaccines. This after the company took their time in submitting an official request for approval to the European Medical Agency. The dutchnews.nl website has more on the controversy surrounding the Dutch factory.

And finally, Utrecht researchers testing bracelet for identifying Covid symptoms from nltimes.nl (based on monitoring temperature, respiration, skin moisture and more).

Happy Friday, everyone!

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The Dutch parliament’s bad day (Or: Bad week?)

Let’s see… last week was the 2021 Dutch elections. After that, talks started to form the government. Since there are so many parties in the Netherlands, you usually need more than one (or two or three) to get a majority in the Tweede Kamer (House of Representatives).

The two largest parties, VVD and D66, appointed one person each to speak with the remaining parties to see which party would be the best fit with the largest two parties. Fun fact: the word for this person is verkenner, which literally translates to “scout”. So good so far.

On Sunday the Junior economic affairs minister Mona Keijzer tested positive for corona (dutchnews.nl). At the time the cabinet was not required to go into quarantine because there was enough distance between the members. However they were strongly advised to get tested after 5 days.

This morning one of the scouts, the D66 home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren, tested positive for corona just before she was supposed to have a meeting with Prime Minister Mark Rutte (VVD) and Sigrid Kaag (D66) regarding the progress they had made on the initial cabinet formation talks. However, right before the meeting she heard that she had tested positive for corona so she immediately left to go into quarantine.

However, in her haste to leave she accidentally showed her notes to the reporters outside:

Among other things, the notes talk about a minister who was critical of the outgoing cabinet, suggesting he should seek another position. It also talks the parties on the left acting independently of each other versus trying to band together. Within hours both of the verkenners resigned their roles and new verkenners were appointed (dutchnews.nl).

Questions also started to pop up about why the cabinet was still meeting in person and not holding more meetings digitally due to the positive test result over the weekend. Technically the cabinet is exempt from any advice to work from home, but now cabinet meetings will move online for the time being to reduce the risk of getting infected (nltimes.nl).

Throw in a bomb threat at the Binnenhof (Dutch parliament) just after 17:00 today and there you go – one very long week (or at least day) for the Dutch government.

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