Flying overhead (Or: A look at The Netherlands during the coronavirus pandemic)

Today’s blog post will focus on the use of drones to fly over various parts of The Netherlands during the coronavirus pandemic.

So without further ado, here is a look at how drones have been used to capture the oddness of this situation:

First, a recently posted drone video of the Efteling theme park:

This fantasy theme park was built in the 1950s and can be found in the east part of The Netherlands (Wikipedia).

Here is a look at a video produced by the national news service NPO:

The video above explains how The Netherlands came to a standstill due to the coronavirus and includes some statistics. Spoken Dutch with English subtitles.

Continue reading
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Don’t hoard! (Or: Dutch sign language interpreter goes viral)

On 12 March the Dutch government held a press conference with a sign language interpreter present, Irma Sluis from The Hague. This was actually the first press conference in history which used their services, after much criticism from hard of hearing or deaf citizens. One citizen held up a sign behind a reporter during the evening news earlier in March. The sign read “Where are the sign language interpreters during a time of crisis?” (article in Dutch).

The government also received complaints after the tram attacks in Utrecht last year (article in Dutch) where there was no sign language interpreter present even though citizens were being told to shelter in place and not go outside. This was even more noticeable considering New Zealand had a sign language interpreter present during the press conferences after the attack at the mosque last year.

On 15 March, the stage was set for a the first sweeping set of coronoavirus restrictions for citizens: schools, daycares, sport clubs and similar were forced to close. Restaurants and cafes were only allowed to be open for take out or delivery. Everyone who could was told to work from home and/or avoid public transportation. Supermarkets were still open, however.

The sign language interpreter (Irma Sluis) said later that she was chosen because she lived in The Hague and was the closest sign language interpreter. Since Dutch sign language is not her mother tongue she was required to look up some of the words in advance to see how she could best interpret them (Dutch Wikipedia article). Irma went viral with her translation of niet hamsteren or “don’t hoard” (article from iamexpat.nl), digging with her hands like claws and her teeth sticking out. The minister of medical care had said “I would like urge everyone again not to hoard. It is not necessary, there is enough for everyone. Hoarding causes problems for supermarkets.”

Hamsterende gebarentolk Irma Sluis groeide uit tot een baken in de crisis (from nrc.nl, ‘Hoarding’ sign language interpreter Irma Sluis becomes a beacon in the crisis).

Oh, and in that article you can also read that she made one mistake, perhaps due to being from The Hague: she accidentally signed ‘Scheveningen’ when she should have signed ‘beach’. Opps!

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Spot the teddy bear (Or: Worldwide scavenger hunt)

Did you know there has been a massive scavenger hunt going on around the world?

It’s a great way to distract kids (and their parents). Some cities have even put the bears locations on Google Maps. Here is an example from Seattle: The Madison Park Bear Hunt. Here is a map for the Netherlands (note: it took a long time to load). The KnuffelBerenjacht NL, or “The Teddy Bear Hunt NL”.

He’s not in a window, but he’s still cute!
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
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How do I close these rings again? (Or: Apple Watches in a time of the coronavirus)

Earlier this year I bought an Apple Watch for myself after losing my trusty Fitbit One in a tragic accident. I’m not completely sure what happened, but there’s a small chance it got flushed. Opps. I lasted some months without any sort of fitness gear, but at some point you just miss being able to count your steps. I was doing pretty good with my new watch, except for weekends when I usually took a bit of a break.

But then the coronavirus hit…

I’m pretty sure it is apparent what my last working day in the office was before we were required to start working from home. And now there is (at least) four more weeks to go.

And I know – I really do – that we are allowed outside to get a “fresh nose” (frisse neus in Dutch!), and that most countries around us don’t have that luxury. However it’s admittedly pretty tiring at times to go outside and spend most of your time dodging everyone in sight.

In other news, Jamie Oliver is closing both of his restaurants in the Netherlands (link in Dutch) due to the loss of revenue during the restaurant closures. And with all restaurants now closed until the 28th, it didn’t look like it was going to get any easier for that company. There were already rumors last year that Jamie Oliver’s was going to close, so I can’t say it came as much of a surprise.

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Additional coronavirus measures in The Netherlands (Or: It is about time)

There was another press conference this evening, with the prime minister Mark Rutte and the ministers De Jonge, Grapperhaus and Van Rijn speaking. Note: The Netherlands is not yet in lockdown.

For the full list of rules from the Rijksoverheid in Dutch, see this page.

Translated, the rules are:

  • Stay home as much as you can. Only go outside for work when you can’t work from home, or when you need to get groceries, or you need to care for someone else. You can go outside to get some fresh air, but do not do it in a group. Keep 1.5 meters (5 feet) between you and others and avoid social actives or groups of people. At home, you should limit yourself to three visitors and 5 feet between you at all times.
  • If you cough or have a cold, stay home (as before). If you get a fever, then everyone in your household has to stay at home. The only exception to this is for workers in vital occupations – unless they themselves get sick.
  • All events are canceled until 1 June instead of 1 April, even those with less than 100 guests. Exceptions for funerals and weddings will be announced later.
  • Stores and public transportation are required to take measures to make sure people stay at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart. An example of this would be only allowing a certain amount of people inside at a time.
  • Hair dressers, beauticians and others in ‘contact’ occupations in the area of beauty care are not allowed to practice until 6 April. Physiotherapists should try to work as much as possible over videochat.
  • Casinos are required to close from 24 March – they fall under the same ruling as eateries and drink establishments.
  • At locations like vacation parks, the owners of the establishments must assure that people stay at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart. If they do not do this, the municipality can force them to close.
  • Mayors can establish areas where groups are not allowed to form. For example, parks, beaches or neighborhood. Groups of three or more people that do not keep at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart can be fined. Persons in the same households, like families and children are exempt from this.
  • Markets are exempt from this ruling because they provide a vital food service. However municipalities and market owners must look at how they can assure visitors are kept at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart.
  • The government wants the current measures to be followed correctly. Therefore mayors have received the authority to take control more easily and quickly. Mayors are allowed to close certain locations, such as parks, beaches and camping ground. They are also allowed to give out fines.

The earlier announced measures will still be enforced (see also this Rijksoverheid.nl page in English).

The above picture was taken last week just out Den Haag Centraal Station – the hashtag #applausevoordezorg means ‘applause for health care workers’.

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NL-Alert (Or: We really are a social bunch)

I think the word of the year for 2020 will be social distancing. Although perhaps it would be disqualified due to being two words. Check out the Dutch Wikipedia article for the history and previous winners (for best results, leave the language as Dutch and use Google translate).

The Dutch government sent an NL-Alert a half hour ago to remind people that they should keep 1.5 meter distance between themselves and the next person (around 5 feet).


It reads: Follow the instructions of the government. Keep 5 feet between you and the next person! Are you sick or do you have a cold? Stay home. Protect yourself and the people are you. We are unified against Corona. And then simply in English: keep your distance to others.

Read more about NL-Alerts at Wikipedia. The last one sent nationally was to inform citizens that the 112 service (911) was not working.

And why did the government need to send this message?

  • because people are still visiting the beach in Scheveningen (article in Dutch)
  • because people are still visiting the beach in Noordwijk or taking the train for day trips (article in Dutch)
  • because people think it’s the perfect time to do work around the house… and get materials from the local hardware store or IKEA (article in Dutch)
  • because people are still visiting Amsterdam’s Vondelpark in massive groups (article in Dutch)

There are no words…

Just in: Zandvoort and Bloemendaal are closing their beach parking lots and turning people away (article in Dutch).

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Working from home (Or: A period of adjustment)

Today was the first day of working from home due to the Corona virus. It was okay, considering.

I did try to brighten things up a bit by lighting a wax candle. I also made a cup of tea, since our team usually gets tea together every morning. What can I say. Traditions never die.

Behind that is a decorative rack Marco and I purchased from Xenos a while back. Visible in the photo are souvenirs from various trips. From the top left is an mini Eiffel tower, an Indy car, a Disney photo frame (of which only the frame legs are visible, a souvenir from Tokyo’s Ghibli museum, a Boston trail coaster, and a just barely visible souvenir Guinness mug… mini size.)

At 19:00 this evening the Dutch prime minister gave a nationally televised speech. An English summary can be found at DutchNews.nl. He admits that a lot of people in this country will get the virus over the coming months, but that the key is to ‘flatten the curve’ (npr.org) so that the healthcare system is not overloaded. He discussed the possibility of locking down the entire country, but said this would take months if not a year to take effect, and that the virus would probably come back after the country was re-opened. Not to mention the economic ramifications…

The rest of the speech reminded people to follow advice even if you were young and health, and to take care of those are you.

Oh, and the last time a Dutch prime minister directly addressed the Netherlands on television was in 1973 during the oil crisis. I find that a bit surprising, but these are weird times indeed.

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Sanquin Bloedbank (Or: Puzzle time!)

Some months ago I was able to choose a gift for donating blood for the 15th time. I could not pass up the jigsaw puzzle that I saw – a 500 piece puzzle from Jan van Haasteren!

Image downloaded from https://www.jvh-puzzels.com/all-puzzles/by-image/sanquin-bloedbank.html

It’s specially designed for the Dutch blood bank, Sanquin and not available in stores.

Highlights include: the Sinterklaas in the upper right in the elevator, next to a prisoner stealing the pelican (Sanquin’s mascot), the guy in the business suit in the middle donating blue blood, and the gnome sitting patiently in the donation area on the right middle. Oh, and the gentlemen on the left side with the green shirt who is taking advantage of the policy of free snacks for blood donors.

Here’s my finished puzzle:

And on to the next one, considerably more difficult: an Escher jigsaw puzzle.

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Remnants (Or: Hurricane Dorian says hi)

You know what’s kind of cool (if you ignore what happened to the Bahamas, of course)? That a hurricane can go over the Bahamas and up the east coast of the United States, before boomeranging back to Europe. Take a look at our weather today:

That’s the last remnants of hurricane Dorian floating over Northern Europe. It’s rained all day, but more the annoying kind of rain where you’re not sure if you need an umbrella or not – until you realize you’re pretty wet and yes you did indeed need an umbrella today. Oh well.

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Who needs 112? (Or: Country-wide malfunction by emergency services)

First off, 112 is the emergency number in the Netherlands just like 911 is the emergency number in the US. And guess what? Right now there’s a malfunction by one of the telephone carriers in the Netherlands making it impossible to dial 112 or the non-emergency police number 0900-8844.

Around 17:20 they sent out an NL-Alert saying that the was a country-wide malfunction with the telephone and that we should go to the nearest fire department or police station in an emergency. That’s it – yikes. A bit confusing, since there was nothing about the issues with the 112 number. Also not good? Marco I received the alert around 18:10, almost an hour after it was originally sent.

However a few minutes later Marco and I received an NL-Alert with better information:

Interesting things to note here:

  • this time they said 112 was having issues – that’s better.
  • the end of the message is translated in English. Nice.
  • You know you’re catching up with technology when they are also able to give a WhatsApp number. (Correction: the WhatsApp number they sent was wrong. Eek! They sent out a third NL-Alert with the new number 06-10000011)
  • You can also use Twitter to contact the police in general.

Not mentioned above, but the police also said they are also sending all available police officers out into the streets to make their presence more noticeable so that citizens have alternative means of reporting issues.

Read more here:

From the police: “Due to technical malfunctions the emergency number 112 and the service number 0900-8844 (not for emergencies) cannot be reached at this moment. There are alternative telephone numbers available. For 112 call 088-66 28 240, for 0900-8844 call 088-96 59 630”.

Kind of crazy, though, that the emergency phone system can be brought down at all. I expect a thorough investigation at some point…

Edit: mostly fixed around 20:00, but the numbers the police gave out will be usable for now.

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