News

Friday (Or: The end of a long work week)

I am glad to report that my work week is now over. I think everyone on my team was a bit tired and we all could have used a break at the end of it! Marco and I made the classic Friday night meal of hamburgers and twister fries. The hamburgers had lots of jalapeños, lettuce and onions with yellow mustard for me and sweet habanero sauce (cholula.com) for Marco.

Berlin man suspected of ‘making radio contact with air traffic’ from euronews.com. I first found this one on nu.nl (link in Dutch) and then searched around for an English language version to link to on this blog. Crazy!

Brabander creëert thuiswerkplek in auto om even weg te zijn van kinderen from nu.nl in Dutch (Person from North Brabant creates a home office in car to get away from his kids). The police noticed the car in the woods because the windows were fogging up. In the car they found a large computer screen, table and laptop. The police said they understood why he did it. However, I’m hoping he didn’t leave his partner at home to deal with the kids while also working…

Speaking of which: Cabinet aiming to reopen primary schools on Feb. 8 from nltimes.nl, although even that article stresses that it is a a wish and not a fact. If primary schools are able to re-open then the government would also re-open daycares, to help relieve some of the pressure on working parents. However, others in the government think any relaxation of corona-related measures on February 9 is unlikely (article also from nltimes.nl), so I think we are just going to have to wait and see what happens. There is another press conference planned for next Tuesday.

Have a good weekend, all.

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A quieter night (Or: Peace returns to the Netherlands?)

After three nights of rioting (Saturday, Sunday and Monday) things were more peaceful last night. Less unrest on fourth night of curfew; 131 arrested from nltimes.nl. There was still some unrest in Rotterdam – 81 of the 131 arrests yesterday were there – but police said there was a major difference between the first three nights and yesterday evening.

There were rumors that The Hague’s city centre would be a gathering point for rioters last night, but things remained quieter. See also Rustige avond tot dusver in de regio Haaglanden (Peaceful evening for the moment in The Hague region) from regio15.nl in Dutch. It includes pictures of shop owners taking precautions to protect their shops from plunderers and secure entrances and outdoor furniture. There are also pictures of the massive police presence in the Grote Marktstraat, the heart of the city centre. Around 20:00 or a bit before police started telling everyone to leave the area immediately or risk being arrested (the city passed a temporary emergency order allowing this). Better safe than sorry, after seeing some of the damage done in the three days before that… But in the end things remained quiet.

No need to bring in army to quell riots, Rutte tells MPs during debate from dutchnews.nl. For the moment police (and riot police which fall under Defense) have been able to handle the situation. Perhaps not as fast as the cities wanted, though.

In other news:

Registration cards of Dutch Holocaust victims to go on display from theguardian.com. From the article: “The Dutch Red Cross has passed ownership of the records to the Jewish Cultural Quarter of Amsterdam, an umbrella organisation of several institutions, including the Dutch National Holocaust Museum.”

Dutch warehouse boom as UK firms forced to invest aboard also from theguardian.com

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More curfew drama (Or: Riots in 10+ municipalities)

Yesterday I mentioned that during the first night of the curfew (Saturday until Sunday) there were incidents in two small Dutch towns, Urk and Stein. There were a few other minor skirmishes reported, but nothing too crazy.

And then there was yesterday.

There were rumors that Eindhoven and Amsterdam would see some unrest in the afternoon, but things got worse later in the evening. Curfew riots in at least 10 municipalities; 190 arrested in Amsterdam from nltimes.nl. Including a group of rioters who tried to force their way into a hospital in Enschede (?! Why!). Luckily they weren’t successful.

Most of the damage was to the train station in Eindhoven. Check out this video at The Guardian:
Anti-lockdown rioters clash with Dutch police in the Netherlands. And seriously, why do train station pianos always get trashed?

The news isn’t all bad though. Here’s a video of residents in Eindhoven helping with clean up this morning:

“Dozens of Eindhoven residents armed with brooms arrived at the Station plaza this morning to help clean up the damage after yesterday’s riots. ‘Extremely sad” says one of the volunteers.”

We’ll see what tonight brings. There are rumors that there will be more rioting tonight. My plan: stay inside (there IS a curfew after all, people!) and drink some hot chocolate. What more could you want?

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3,600 fines and 25 arrests (Or: First curfew in the Netherlands)

As noted, the Netherlands currently has a curfew from 21:00 to 04:30 every day through 9 February. Last night there were 3,600 fines issued and 25 arrests (article from nos.nl in Dutch, with a lot more detail than the English language articles which have been posted so far today).

The YouTube video at the bottom of the linked article is funny. You see some police canvassing the area for anyone breaking the curfew when a cyclist comes into view. You see him stop for a moment and try to think about what he can do. Can he turn around? Should he still try to go past? Eventually he decides to cross to the other side of the street and then make a break for it. The cyclist ignores a police officer’s request to stop. Of course the police agent has a motorcycle with him, so he simply gets on that and chases after the cyclist (off frame, unfortunately).

As noted in the article above, there was also unrest in a small town name Urk. It is a deeply religious town known for its fishing trade. About 96% of the 20,000 residents are protestant. There was also unrest in Urk in November and December. This time the youth set a corona test street located in the harbor on fire. The only other major incident played out in a small town called Stein, close to the Belgium border, with minor protests also occurring in Amsterdam and Amersfoort.

Amsterdam en Eindhoven nemen maatregelen vanwege signalen gewelddadig protest, also from nos.nl in Dutch. The area around Museumplein in Amsterdam and Eindhoven’s city centre have been labeled as “safety risk areas” today so that police need less cause to search anyone in the area. This step has been taken because there are rumors that both places will see illegal protests this afternoon.

In beeld: Nederland uitgestorven door avondklok from nos.nl in Dutch. The article shows images of a very empty, quiet Netherlands last night after the curfew came into effect. I especially like the aerial photos.

In Utrecht klinkt vanaf morgen de avondklok elke dag letterlijk from rtvutrecht.nl in Dutch. The article talks about a church in Utrecht’s city centre. The church bells ring at 21:55 every night. Originally this was to signal that the city gates were about to close for the evening, but this tradition has persisted even in modern times. Now the bells will ring at 20:55 every night, to warn residents that the curfew is about to begin.

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Just another Thursday (Or: Curfews and Easter eggs)

It looks like more Dutch parties are in favor of the curfew, as long as it starts a bit later. Last weekend the rumors were that it would last from 20:00-04:00, during the press conference on Wednesday we heard possibly 20:30-04:30 and now there is talk of it not starting until 21:00. This slight compromise seems to be the only way for the government to get a majority of parties to vote for the plan, although prime minister Mark Rutte mentioned that if it starts any later than 21:00 it would not have much effect.

MPs set to vote to bring in a curfew from 9pm after a full day’s debate from dutchnews.nl

The Dutch government revised the vaccination schedule slightly. See also this article at dutchnews.nl: When is it your turn to get vaccinated? The schedule so far (or the same list in Dutch from rijksoverheid.nl)

Did you know mid-January means Easter eggs are already arriving in stores? Het is januari, dus… zijn de eerste paaseitjes gespot in Den Haag from indebuurt.nl. The essential stores that are allowed to be open during this lockdown, at any rate. On the linked page the big picture on the bottom is of the Easter egg selection at Jamin, a Dutch candy store. The article says that some of the more unique flavors sold this year are wasabi, apple strudel and carrot cake. I’m also a big fan of the color coordination, though it makes me wonder what flavor is missing in the lower right in the article’s photo.

Speaking of Easter eggs, here is the selection at an Albert Heijn grocery store (somewhere in the Netherlands):

The tweet reads: “Every Easter I buy a large bag of Easter eggs and put them in a big vase on the table. Every January Albert Heijn reminds me that I still haven’t eaten all of them yet.”

Easter in January…

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Further corona measures (Or: Curfew announced)

A curfew has been announced from 20:30 to 04:30, starting either Saturday or Sunday depending on a final vote by the Dutch parliament. For the moment the curfew will last until 9 February. Some of the exceptions to the curfew include essential workers (who have a signed declaration from their employer), persons seeking medical assistance for a person or an animal, caretakers and meal delivery workers with a declaration from their employer. You can also let your dog out, but you need to do it alone and the dog must be leashed.

Coronavirus in the Netherlands: What you need to know (January 20) from dutchnews.nl

Oh, and you see how I said the curfew doesn’t apply to meal delivery workers? Marktplaats bans sales of delivery worker apparel ahead of curfew from nltimes.nl. Markplaats is like a Dutch eBay. Apparently people were already selling (and buying) clothes to make it look like they had a legitimate reason to be outside during the curfew.

Other measures include:

  • all flights to the United Kingdom, South Africa and all South American countries will be banned until required quarantine procedures can be put into place, which might take up to four weeks
  • all travelers by boat and plane must have taken a fast test within four hours of their flight departing, in addition to the previously required PCR test within 72 hours
  • all travelers by boat and plane are required to quarantine for 10 days, but they can take a test after 5 days
  • only one house guest over the age of 13 is allowed per 24 hours. Previously 2 guests were allowed.
  • only 50 guests are allowed by a funeral (instead of the previous 100 guests)

The goal of the extra measures is to prepare for the scenario where the “British” variant is more dominant in the Netherlands, to prevent the situation that is currently happening in the United Kingdom. Another goal is to force the number of cases down even faster to allow schools to hopefully re-open on 8 February.

In other news:

  • dinner today was sauerkraut (English Wikipedia), made by Marco’s mom. Very tasty – thank you!
  • Marco and I forgot to take photos of the sauerkraut because we were busy watching the US inauguration of Joe Biden on CNN International. Fun fact as told by Marco: here in the Netherlands, CNN became widespread in the Netherlands during the Gulf War in the early 1990s. After the war ended the channel was still offered by most Dutch television providers, through today.
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A bit slower this time (Or: Dutch filled dreams)

Random observation #1: I had a dream this morning. The only thing I can remember is that I was speaking Dutch. I remember this because I woke up and was wondering why I was speaking Dutch so slowly in the dream. The sentences I said certainly did not seem that difficult to me. But I thought about it and realized I don’t dream that often in Dutch. My mind was likely trying to construct the sentences as fast as it could but having a bit of trouble doing so, which likely woke me up.

Perhaps I should give the credit to Marco, who tries to keep me speaking Dutch during the day even when I’m working. (Which helps since we don’t get outside that much outside of grocery shopping, so there are a lot less spontaneous conversations with strangers.)

Random observation #2: If you are standing a supermarket and trying to lick your fingers to futilely open a plastic bag to put some jalapeños in, but you’re wearing a face mask, what can you do? I managed to get enough friction to open it after about half a minute, but it was a weird sensation to bring my fingers to my mouth and then realized I could not lick them because I was wearing a face mask.

I am sure this one was noticed by others months and months ago, but generally I have a re-usable bag on hand so I don’t need to grab a plastic bag.

Elementary schools will remain closed in the Netherlands until at least 8 February from nltimes.nl. Previously there was hope that elementary schools could re-open from 25 January, however there is still uncertainty around the British variant of the coronavirus, so the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) recommended against re-opening them early and the Dutch government agreed.

Museumplein schoongeveegd door politie om verboden demonstratie from nos.nl (Amsterdam’s Museumplein cleared out by police, ending an illegal demonstration). The city had said the protestors would not be allowed to protest at the Museumplein. An alternative location with a maximum of 500 protestors allowed was given, however 1,500-2,000 protestors still showed up at the original location today. The name of the protest was “Don’t vote for Rutte’s cabinet!” (elections will be held in mid-March).

Pretty much! Books rule (both physical and digital).

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Wednesdays (Or: Halfway through the week)

The weather has turned a bit colder, with temperatures hovering around the freezing point the next few days. It is the perfect time to stay inside – one of the few benefits of a mandatory work-from-home policy, I suppose.

Here’s a look at some of the more random news stories of late:

Natural history museum bags electrifying new addition to collection from dutchnews.nl. A stone marten (English Wikipedia) found its way into an electrical substation, killing itself and briefly taking out the power in parts of Gelderland, a Dutch province. The Rotterdam-based museum has a collection entitled ‘Dead animals tell a story’. Another recent addition of theirs was a dead seagull with a face mask tied to its leg (rtlnieuws.nl, in Dutch).

Dutch officials seize ham sandwiches of drivers arriving from UK from theguardian.com. Thanks to Brexit you can no longer take animal products into the Netherlands – even if you are a truck driver and its your lunch…

Netherlands and Germany refuse entry to UK nationals for non-essential travel from theguardian.com. This article is from 4 January. At that point 13 people had already been turned away and not allowed to enter the country. Due to Brexit you need to have a negative PCR test and a very good reason to enter the Netherlands. Unlike the person who said he “wanted to visit Amsterdam” or the person who said he “had a connecting flight to Spain for a skiing holiday”.

Foreign visitors face ban from Amsterdam’s cannabis cafes from theguardian.com. The mayor, city officials and police want to ban tourists from Dutch coffee shops. While there has been talk of this for a while, I think corona and overcrowding issues over the last few years made it a bit easier for the city to look at what kind of tourist they wanted to bring into the city.

Speaking of which, I learned quickly: if you want to say you are going to get a coffee, you say you are going to a café. If you say you are going to a coffee shop that means you are going to going to purchase cannabis (and get some coffee on the side). Good to know…

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Lockdown extension (Or: Three weeks longer)

The Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte announced that our lockdown would be extended for three weeks (nltimes.nl, in English), moving the end date from 19 January to 9 February. Lockdown in the Netherlands means that all non-essential stores are closed, restaurants and cafés are closed, ‘through traffic’ places like libraries, museums, and amusement parks are closed.

Schools have switched to online education as well, although some students are allowed at school if they are deemed “vulnerable” or need to prepare for exams. Secondary education schools (students 12 and older) who are in the classroom are now required to adhere to the 1.5 meters distance rule in all situations. Previously secondary education students did not have to keep distance with each other, only their teacher.

The government considered implementing a curfew, however they have decided to consult with the Outbreak Management Team first before taking that step. It could still happen, but I think the government is trying to gauge public reaction before going there, because it could backfire.

The news is not all bad, though. Here is a look at the number of corona cases (the red line is the 7 day average):

We had about 5,000 cases today, 500 less than yesterday. But, the decline is too slow and the hospital and ICU intakes are not showing that much of a decline. The threat of the British variant of the coronavirus also looms. During the press conference the Minister of Health said there were about 100 recorded cases of that variant, with about half of them in the township of Lansingerland, not that far from The Hague. The township is currently working on testing all of its residents over two years of age–the first area in the Netherlands to do so (article in Dutch at nos.nl).

And really, there was a time back in early October when we were panicking because we hit 5,000 cases, so why should we accept 5,000 cases as a good thing now? Let’s just hope the downward trend continues.

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Rutte’s December speech (Or: Into a hard lockdown we go)

The Dutch minister held an emergency speech this evening to announce a hard lockdown beginning tonight at midnight. Just like the speech in March earlier this year, it took place in his work office at the Binnenhof (nicknamed Torentje or “Little tower” – English Wikipedia).

…and because of this choice of location, it was much easier for protestors to make themselves heard, on live television, with whistling, shouting and general noisemaking. Oh well. Rutte did make mention of it halfway through his speech, pointing outside and saying “It is isn’t an innocent flu as some people outside here think”.

Rutte confirms five-week lockdown in the Netherlands; Schools shut from Wednesday from nltimes.nl

Hard lockdown unavoidable, says Dutch PM, ruling out foreign travel until March from dutchnews.nl (this one has a photo from the outside looking in at Mark Rutte as he gives his speech – an interesting view)

Here is a list of the most important rules, which take affect at midnight tonight and last until at least 19 January:

  • non-essential stores are closed (some of the exceptions are supermarkets, pet stores, pharmacies, gas stations and banks)
  • non-medical “contact” jobs are closed (hair stylists, massage parlors, nail salons, etc.) Medical “contact” jobs like dentists or physiotherapists are exempt.
  • from Wednesday all schools (elementary through university) are closed with online education the norm. There are a few exceptions for exams or “vulnerable” students. Daycares are also closed, except for parents with vital jobs.
  • only two guests are allowed per day (which the exception of December 24, 25 and 26 when you can have three guests per day). Groups outside can only consist of one household or of two persons total.
  • the urgent advice is again “stay at home as much as possible” and “don’t travel overseas or book trips until at least 15 March”.
  • museums, zoos, theaters and theme parks are closed. Libraries are also closed, although Rutte mentioned an exception for patrons to pick up and bring back reserved books or allow vulnerable youth to do their homework there. Whether or not the library offers this service is another thing.
  • indoor gyms will close. Some activity is allowed outside but only in groups of two with 1.5 meters distance. Youth under 18 can still exercise in groups, however.
  • The urgent advice of “work as much as possible from home” is still in effect.

At the moment the next press conference is scheduled for 12 January, when the government will discuss the next steps leading up to 19 January, the current end date for the hard lockdown.

Christmas tree by Huijgenspark in The Hague
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