Dinner in front of the TV (Or: Another Dutch press conference)

There was another press conference tonight, held by the Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The main highlights are:

People are urgently asked, but not required, to limit home gatherings to a maximum of six guests. And if you cannot accommodate social distancing for yourself and your six guests in your apartment then you should not be inviting six people over. This advice is because most of the cases seen are occurring within private areas. An unexpected twist: Rutte advised that people who wanted to meet up should instead go to restaurants or cafés, where social distancing was easier to maintain, a health check was done, contact details were saved and fixed seating was required (all of those in theory).

People are also reminded that the rule is still ‘work as much as possible from home, where possible’. There was some unfounded hope that going back to work after 1 September would be allowed, however that was never officially said and now the number of cases are growing again. Therefore Rutte decided to make it clear that working from home would remain the norm for the foreseeable future. (See also: my work saying we’re now officially working from home until at least the New Year. Yikes!)

The length of quarantine will be reduced from 14 days to 10 days. The advice remains that you should get tested if you develop symptoms while in quarantine. While it seems counterproductive to reduce the number of days, it is the government’s attempt to weigh the smaller risk of developing symptoms during days #11-14 and making it easier for people to accept going into quarantine. At the moment the government cannot require that you go into quarantine, though they said during this press conference that they are looking into changing the law to permit that.

The RIVM posted the weekly numbers on their website earlier today; weekly updates are provided every Tuesday. Corona cases are about the same as last week, with hospitalizations and deaths slightly rising.

Later tonight the mayor of Amsterdam is expected to announce regional measures on top of what was announced nationally. Rotterdam is expected to follow with additional regional measures later this week.

In the meantime: stay safe everyone!

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Storms are coming (Or: Finally! Rain!)

The thermometer reads 30.5C or 87F. I know it’s probably not the actual temperature, but it does make me pretty glad that rain will finally be coming tonight after an 8 day heat wave. Lots of records were broken in the Netherlands this week. The seven day average temperature for the country was 33.1C, with the previous record of 32C back in 1976 (about 91F).

Another record broken: the Netherlands had 8 straight days of temperatures above 35C (95F) somewhere in the country. De Bilt, a small town in the centre of the Netherlands saw temperatures above 30C for 8 days in a row. That is significant because De Bilt is the official site for average temperatures for the country (and also home to KNMI, the Dutch metrological service).

Of course, it will probably take a while before the apartment cools down, but hopefully not too long. I’m crossing my finger a lot while saying that!

And for some news regarding the corona crisis:

Stay cool, everyone… ☀️

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Patches of color (Or: Rainbow motorbike)

Here is what I spotted yesterday in The Hague:

One very colorful motorbike! Good luck stealing that one. It reminds me of the purple bike I found back in 2015.

And in this unexpected Dutch heat I will just say: stay cool everyone and enjoy your weekend responsibly!

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Painted on the street (Or: Social distancing messages)

More and more “keep your distance” messages have appeared on the streets of The Hague in the last month. This one is on the Grote Markt:

I do like the coat of arms (Wikipedia) in the upper left.

Let’s go for a few random YouTube videos today. It’s Friday, and the headlines are depressing!

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World Blood Donor Day (Or: Only an hour of your time)

Today is World Blood Donor Day. As some of you might be aware I donated blood when I used to live in America and I currently donate blood in the Netherlands. I donated yesterday, coincidentally.

All blood donors received an email which included a link to an online pdf. It was a really interesting read (it was about blood donation in general and blood donation during corona times). However since it is a pdf you will need to know Dutch to read it unfortunately. But the pdf also includes a design originally drawn by Dick Bruna in 1974 for the Dutch blood bank. It’s so cute!

It is a bit different donating in the Netherlands (but only a bit):

  • blood donations are handled by Sanquin, a non-profit organization
  • to donate blood you go to one of the Sanquin locations (unlike America where they go to libraries and schools and hold blood drives)
  • before you can donate blood the first time you need to visit a Sanquin location where they do an intake exam and draw a bit of blood for testing purposes
  • if your intake exam goes well you will be put on their register as a blood donor. You need to wait for them to contact you to come donate blood, every time.
    • gender matters – males are allow to donate up to five times a year, women up to three times a year (for whole blood – plasma is every two weeks and uses appointments)
    • blood type matters – the Netherlands is a small country and blood doesn’t last long, so some blood types are get called in more often
Continue reading
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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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