Let’s all go to Primark (Or: Unbelievable lines)

Okay, admittedly this photo was taken last Sunday, late in the afternoon. The Hague city centre gets busy at those times, even on the best of the days. Throw in some coronavirus and you have a recipe for pedestrian congestion.

Let’s see… about 50 people that we can see waiting to get inside the local Primark (a discount clothing store), probably another 20-25 around the corner. Admittedly, it is a double line which makes it look twice even more crowded.

And here I used to joke that people were insane when they would walk around the city with four fully loaded Primark bags. It really is a discount clothing store – I think I got a shirt there for 2 and a half euros once. Oh, and a very awesome Christmas ornament that I probably don’t have a photo of. But trust me, it was cute.

But probably not worth waiting in line for with 75 others.

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Corona measures at the Chinatown gate (Or: In The Hague)

Recently I noticed a new coronavirus measure that appeared in The Hague: clear walking paths near the Chinatown gate, which is found between Bijenkorf and Superdry.

On this side of the walkway the signs tell you to walk on the right and that cyclists need to get off their bike. Perhaps the one-way walkways are because of the construction around the gate taking up a lot of the space?

It’s an interesting idea, but I feel like this situation has shown me just how much the human race can ignore rules: I watched a couple walk on the left side, not a care in the world. As I emerged on the other side, I met someone who was walking in the wrong direction as well, taking the path I just exited. Some days I feel like a lot of measures are just for political show. But okay. It is what it is.

So that you can understand what I mean by “Chinatown gate”, here is a photo from early 2017:

Ironically, it also had construction around it on that day, although a lot less than what you would see currently.

Did you know that gates like this are entirely an American invention? They were invented in San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. Check out the episode “It’s Chinatown” on the 99% Invisible podcast to learn more.

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The Passage in The Hague (Or: Warnings about keeping your distance)

Last week Marco and I went through The Passage, which serves as both a passage between shopping areas in the city centre as well as being a shopping area in its own right.

There were stickers in the ground reminding visitors to keep appropriate distance from one another:

These signs weren’t that big, but they were big enough to catch your eye for sure. What I was less impressed with was the attempt to create one-way walking areas near the entrances to The Passage, as the arrows were tiny, hard to see and easily ignored. In fact, I watched two people walk right over them in the wrong direction, not a care in the world.

I do think the one way arrows will need to be ‘improved’ in the coming weeks as this part only gets busier and busier. They should have been more of them, with clearer lines in the floor. Also perhaps a dividing line that went straight down the middle for the entirety of the shopping area. But we will see how it works out in the coming weeks and months.

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Finding face masks in The Hague (Or: At the local Asian store)

The Dutch government announced during last week’s press conference that face masks would be required on public transportation from 1 June (information from rijksoverheid.nl in English and Dutch). By law you are not allowed to wear medical masks as those are needed for the hospitals and hard to find. Although I haven’t heard about fines if you do wear one (yet).

While we don’t have plans to use public transportation in the near future, you never know what emergencies can come up. A few days ago we also saw a sign on the window of the local Asian store saying they were selling face masks. I believe it was 10 face masks for €9 but don’t hold me to that.

It was the same small Asian store I mentioned a few days ago – it used to be known as ‘Amazing Oriental Markthof’ and is a few doors down from Simonis in the Stad and sandwiched between ‘Spicy Chicken’ (no joke, that’s the name – so creative) and LA American food.

It’s nothing special, but at least we’re prepared. Jaap van Dissel, head of the infectious diseases department at the public health institute RIVM admits that the use of face masks on public transportation is more of a political choice than a health choice: they only stop 5% to 10% of droplets from entering, and they let through anywhere from 40% to 80% of droplets during a cough or sneeze (article at DutchNews.nl).

But hey, it’s a small thing to do when public transportation can’t be avoided. So far my game plan has been to avoid it, though.

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Grote Markt plaza (Or: In the shadow of the coronavirus)

Everyone is thinking about how visits to restaurants and cafés will look after 1 June when terraces will again be allowed to open – if the coronavirus numbers allow it, of course.

The Grote Markt plaza has a plan in the meantime, and it involves food trucks:

Does anyone else think that the shadow of the close umbrella looks like a perched Batman?

Generally this area is filled to the brim with tables and chairs from all of the nearby restaurants. Here is a photo overlooking the area from a nearby restaurant (photo taken in 2015).

Here is a look at what they are serving (or selling):

From upper left (“Bloemen”): Flowers, coffee, pizza, croissants, ice cream, sandwiches, Thai food, Cold Turkey (a type of beer from the nearby restaurant Hoender en Hop, apparently), fries, and vinyl records. There isn’t much information available online about this food truck action, but it could be that it is only running Thursday through Sunday.

And here are some more chalk drawings. I’m unsure if they are supposed to mark the distance between 1.5 meters or not, as some of them are more haphazardly placed. Or maybe they are just decoration, which is cool too.

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Canal ride through The Hague (Or: In the shadow of the Palace Garden)

The weather yesterday was pretty good, around 25C or 77F. This of course meant that a lot of people were outside yesterday. Marco and I also took advantage of the good weather, but we tried to go outside earlier in the morning before it got too busy. We mostly avoided the city centre as much as we could.

And not without reason: yesterday NS, the national train service, was asking people to stop traveling to Zandvoort to go to the beach. And a popular shopping street in Leiden was briefly closed yesterday (article in Dutch at omroepwest.nl)

Near the end of our walk I took a photo of the canal that crosses alongside the Palace Garden:

In the photo you can see a small group of boaters enjoying the good weather as well as a few people sitting on the edge of the canal on the right.

Oh, and in other random Dutch news:

New future for Amsterdam post-corona tourism with ‘right’ visitors (dutchnews.nl) – which reminds me of another story from a few weeks ago where Milan was looking adding temporary bike lanes to give cyclists more space (theguardian.com), with Paris announcing a similar scheme (forbes.com).

Researchers discover seabed volcano 100 km from Texel (dutchnews.nl) – the volcano was given the name ‘Mulciber’ after the Roman god of fire. Fortunately (or unfortunately, if you like a bit of risk in your life) the volcano is long dead.

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Stay Strong (Or: Haagse Harry signs in The Hague)

As I’ve noted previously, Haagse Harry is a comic book character created by Marnix Rueb. Here’s a statue of the character unveiled in 2014 after Rueb’s untimely death. Remember most of the text you see below is phonetically spelled in The Hague’s own dialect. I have a lot of trouble reading it, which always makes Marco laugh.

In these corona times, banners have appeared throughout the city centre from the Dutch group Fan Support Den Haag (Instagram | Facebook).

It says in the middle:

Stay strong Hagenen (The Hague residents). Anderhalve meter = 1.5 meters

The shirt on the left says Mijn hart behoort aan Den Haag = My heart belongs to The Hague

The shirt on the right says 1 team, 1 taak = 1 team, 1 task

And a banner above the Bleyenberg restaurant.

Ik wil mijn bier en vreten, dus laten we de horeca niet vergeten! = I want my beer and food, so let’s not forget the restaurants and cafés! Although ‘vreten’ is more a verb for eating, but you get the idea.

As noted last month, I love the dutch word horeca which is simply a shortened form of ‘hotels, restaurants and cafés’ (ho-re-ca).

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The beauty of The Hague (Or: Unseen flowers)

As with most places in the world, beauty is blooming and yet there is no one around to see it. But this is where technology can help – be it cameras or drones. The first example is Clingendael, a Japanese garden situated in The Hague. I actually haven’t visited yet, partially because it is only open for a short time in the spring.

The second place is Keukenhof, not too far outside of The Hague. I mentioned it a few weeks ago in this blog already. It is a large tulip park, open for a few months in the year. Last year they had 1.5 million visitors. This year they weren’t even able to open before the crisis took hold.

The latest video they posted was of the violinist Rosanne Philippens playing during a sunrise:

They post videos of Keukenhof every few days – check out their YouTube channel for more.

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Enter the showers (Or: Coronavirus measures at the local Albert Heijn)

I promised my parents a photo of the local Albert Heijn and one particular coronavirus measure: the curtains that hang from floor to ceiling. This measure has been in place since the beginning of the lockdown, however this morning was a particularly quiet day where there was no one around so I could more easily take a quick photo.

Originally there was a curtain between each of the self-scan areas, but as you can see at least one curtain is now missing in the background. On the other hand, when it was first implemented it was hard to see if a register was already in use or not. So I don’t mind removing one or two curtains to be able to more clearly see where you need to walk.

One thing that I do hope they implement soon is walking routes. Right now you can go in any direction you want in the grocery store, and even double backwards in the same aisle if you forget something. That means that people pass each other frequently. Although it is more annoying, I think it would be better to say that you can go only go down this aisle, and up the next aisle, and etc. If you forget something then you need to go around again.

On the other hand, on a more personal level the better solution is to keep visiting at times when the store is quiet, either in the early mornings or later in the evening.

Random links of the day:

New Banksy piece celebrates superhero health workers (theguardian.com)

NS scraps group discounts, bans bikes in trains as it prepares for more travelers (nltimes.nl)

And an article about the new panda cub in Dutch: Pandababy in Rhenen met ‘uitzonderlijk lange staart’ maakt het goed (nos.nl)

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A new “control” phase (Or: Dutch press conference on 6 May)

News articles had begun to appear in the last few days saying that the government would be shifting to a new phase of “what can you do” versus “what can’t you do” during these corona times. By yesterday it became apparent that the government would holding a press conference tonight, again with the prime minister and healthcare minister. As expected, a lot of the information leaked yesterday evening and today, so there weren’t too many surprises.

The usual rules stay in place (for example, keep 1.5 meters distance, sneeze and cough into your elbow, stay home if you’re feeling sick, wash your hands often, work as much as you can from home, etc.) The one big rule change in this new phase is “avoid busy areas as much as you can” as a replacement for “stay at home as much as you can”. Which I think is a huge shift already.

Here is the relevant information page from rijksoverheid.nl in Dutch, with some points in English below.

From 11 May

  • As already reported during the last press conference: elementary schools can open, daycares can open, children can exercise and partake in sporting activities outside (teenagers can as well, if they follow social distancing rules)
  • Adults are now allowed to partake in non-contact sporting activities outside as long as they follow social distancing rules and shower at home, with no games allowed
  • Most “contact” jobs are now allowed, including hairdressers, beauticians, driving instructors, acupuncturists, etc. Where possible social distancing rules are followed and appointments are always required, with clients and staff needing to confirm that neither are sick.
    • A bit of a shock: face masks are not required, but can be used if desired provided they are not medical face masks
  • Libraries are allowed to open, provided they follow social distancing rules and limit the rate of visitors accordingly
  • Only use public transportation if you must, and avoid rush hour. It is advised that you wear a non-medical face mask (with this becoming a requirement on 1 June due to the government expecting an increased amount of users by then).

Sometime in June

  • The government expects to be able to test anyone who asks for a test (they hope to allow this from 1 June, but cannot give a precise date yet)

From 1 June

  • Non-medical face masks are now a requirement in public transportation, and public transportation operators are required to have a full schedule by this date
    • Public transportation workers can request testing to make sure they don’t have the coronavirus
    • Medical face masks are not allowed as there is still a shortage of those in The Netherlands for healthcare workers
  • Outside terraces by restaurants can open again
  • Movie theaters, restaurants, cafes, museums and other cultural institutions can open, with reservations required and agreement between the client and staff that neither are sick; with a maximum of 30 visitors and staff combined at any one time

From 15 June

  • High schools can take exams

From 1 July

  • Public restrooms and showers can again open at camping areas and vacation parks
  • The maximum of 30 visitors for movie theaters, restaurants and similar is increased to 100 visitors
  • Church services, weddings and funerals of up to 100 visitors and staff are also allowed

From 1 September

  • Fitness clubs, saunas, wellness centers, coffee shops (drug shops) and casinos can open again
  • Contact sports and inside sporting is allowed, for everyone
  • Sporting events can again take place, but without public. This includes paid football games.
  • Around this time a decision will be made about events with lots of visitors, including festivals and concerts.
from rijksoverheid.nl

The prime minister was quick to caution that the above steps are only possible if the coronavirus is kept under control.

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