Posts Tagged With: Coronavirus

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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Time to be patient (Or: All coronavirus measures extended)

The Dutch prime minister announced today in an evening press conference that all measures relating to stopping the coronavirus would be extended from 6 April to 28 April (at least). That includes working from home where possible, restaurants only allowed to be open for take out, the social distancing measures, and more. In addition, schools would be closed until the end of May vacation (3 May).

The prime minister was also quite clear that this could be extended further, and also said that measures would only be removed gradually once the country was ready for it. Considering we had our highest number of deaths today that is probably for the best. There were 175 deaths, although some of them were from previous days but only registered today.

For now there is no complete lockdown. Whether or not we get one is based on whether people follow the measures and make wise decisions. Only time will tell.

Information board in English near The Hague Centraal. The same information was also displayed in Arabic, which I find interesting.

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Closed, closed, closed (Or: Signs of corona in The Hague)

These pictures are from 20-21 March, after the first week of working from home. The first is from Lebkov, a local café:

Unfortunately I think they will need to update their sign… At the moment schools and restaurants are closed until 6 April 2020, however there will be a press conference tomorrow. The expectation is that both measures will be extended until the end of April or the beginning of May. The National Institute for Public Health and Environment is currently conducting research on 100 families with school-age children to see how how the disease develops and how it affects family members of a COVID-19 patient. However that research only began about a week ago and they expect it to last 6 weeks before results are official. And until that time the government will likely keep schools closed. And there’s a good chance restaurants will also be kept closed. Right now they can only be open for take away.

Unimportant side note: The Netherlands has a very cool term – “horeca” which is shorthand for hotels, restaurants and cafés.

A closed sign for TK Maxx. ‘We’re sorry, but unforunately our school is currently closed for business. We hope to be back soon. For current information, visit www.tkmaxx.nl.’

Unimportant side note: In case you’re wondering, TK Maxx is the same company as TJ Maxx in the United States.

Not quite a closed sign, but some information about how to order at the local Smoothie Company.

Unimportant side note: I just noticed that Google Maps now provides adjusted store hours in red (or it says ‘Temporarily closed’ in red), so it’s a bit easier to see if hours have been adjusted due to corona or not. If the font color is still in black, they probably haven’t been updated. See more at 9to5google.com and also the Google support page.

Stay safe, everyone.

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Wandering through The Hague (Or: Noticing the little things)

Here are more photos from the last time I went outside – you can see how deserted the Binnenhof is:

Although there was a small press conference going on further ahead, it wasn’t in this part of the area. The only people I saw outside of that were a few cyclists traveling through.

One of the other places that I visited was the Haagse Bluf, where I took a few pictures:

And a picture of a metal sculpture that looked odd enough that I just knew I had to photograph it:

Otherwise people seemed to be following the rules of staying home if possible, and not flocking to the beaches or parks like they did last week. Perhaps they realized doing so would probably mean yet more rules imposed next week…

Check out the webcam of the Scheveningen boulevard, which is as good as empty. Usually I only see one or two people walking past, with the occasional car.

Good news of the day: the Dutch company Philips delivered 100 respirators to the Dutch government yesterday (article in Dutch) to increase the overall amount of ICU beds in the country. One thing I hadn’t realized before this crisis was how few ICU beds The Netherlands had. Normally there are about 1150 beds in the entire country, with half designated for corona patients and half for non-corona patients. The minister of Health, Welfare and Sport expects there to be just over 1,000 beds on 1 April for corona patients – but keep in mind we are close to that capacity already. Currently the goal is to increase the number to 1,500.

Whether or not Philips could deliver anything on The Netherlands was in doubt – while they are a Dutch company, the factory is in the United States. Recently president Trump was considering invoking the Defense Production Act from 1950, which would jeopardize Phillips exporting to the Netherlands (or any country for that matter). Part of the issue is that a lot of the components for the ventilators are sourced globally, so it is not as if everything could be created in the U.S. alone. But it hasn’t come to that yet.

In similar news, I read this morning that Germany has 28,000 beds and 25,000 respirators… that is a crazy difference compared to the Netherlands, and not just because of the differences in populations (17 million versus 82 million). That explains why two Dutch ICU patients were moved to Münster, Germany today (article in Dutch). Germany has also been taking patients from Italy and France.

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Signs of stillness (Or: Wandering through The Hague)

I took the day off today. It almost – almost – felt pointless, but not quite. I have a bad habit of logging in early (07:30) due to not having a commute and then still working past 17:00. So the workdays feel a bit long right now. And having the day off means I can get out of the house for a bit longer. I’m getting “used” to staying inside some days as I have not been outside since Tuesday morning for a quick trip to the grocery store. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

Therefore, I walked and walked and walked today. Past the statue of Haagse Harry, past the Grote Kerk (Great Church / Sint-Jacobskerk), through the Palace Gardens, and through the Binnenhof. It was quiet and everyone was mindful of the social distancing rules. I even got to see a mini interview at the Binnenhof, although I have no idea who exactly they were interviewing. My politics knowledge is less than ideal.

Funny story about the Palace Gardens: while walking I noticed a small section with about 10 benches that would have added a few extra steps. I had no intention of stopping, I was just mindlessly wandering. I took a few steps in that direction and then noticed one of the benches was occupied. I did a quick calculation of the path size and deemed it a bit too narrow for me to comfortably walk past. I also wanted to be nice to the other person. So I changed my mind and did not go that way.

And then a few seconds later the person began coughing like crazy – a painful cough that was most likely nothing serious. But I’ll admit I was glad for my choice not to go that way! And I only felt a tiny bit guilty about it…

Mannequin wearing a face mask
Entrance to Florencia ice cream (http://www.florenciaijs.nl/home)

And just to show how Dutch this country is….

‘COVID-19 is coming out of my nose!’ Hmmm. Good artwork though.

Then I made my way to the local Albert Heijn for groceries. In most Albert Heijns you are now required to shop using a full-sized shopping cart. While this is the most ordinary thing in the world in America, not many people use them in The Netherlands as the stores are smaller and people generally shop more often than once a week. Therefore I was not looking forward to this new rule.

When I walked in there was a manager and a worker cleaning each of the shopping baskets and then handing it to each customer. (In some stores where a full shopping cart doesn’t make sense, this is the next best option.) So no shopping cart for me, yay.

Otherwise things were fairly quiet, with only a few occasions where I had to plan how I would best get by someone (or patiently wait). The self scan area looked more like a hospital word, with curtains hanging floor to ceiling between each self-scan machine.

These are strange times. Keep safe, everyone.

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Empty streets of The Hague (Or: Plenty of places to park your bike)

Recently Marco took a photo of the bike parking outside of Hema:

This was at the start of what is normally evening rush hour, as everyone heads home from work. Normally this area would be packed with bikes, crammed so tightly together that it would then be impossible to remove your bike once you returned from your shopping trip.

The area is normally so full that it there are ‘bike coaches’ which help you park your bike. Or bike coaches that stand around all day talking with each other… one of those two is true. Although one time I did see one of the coaches help an older lady diagnose a problem with her bike, so that was nice to see.

But still: the strange times continue, with no end in the near future.

The government launched a campaign today called ‘alleen samen’ which can be translated as either ‘only together’ or ‘alone together’. Basically reminding us that we are together in this – even when we must undertake so many actions alone (article in Dutch).

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Stuck inside? (Or: Libraries are still the answer)

Similar to the photo I posted yesterday, one of the rotating advertisements on the digital advertisement boards is for onlinebibliotheek.nl.

The advertisement says “If you can’t go outside, you can still bring the world inside, right? … Visit (online) your bookstore or go to onlinebibliotheek.nl”.

Luckily the library here in The Hague says no fines until 13 April due to all of the branches being closed They ask that you hold onto the items you have checked out for now. Like a typical book junkie, I only wish I had realized in advance that all of the library branches would be closed so that I could check out more books in the meantime. I suspect the libraries won’t reopen on 6 April, especially considering the new rules that the Netherlands is taking to enforce social distancing.

Right now I am reading The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, in Dutch. If I am honest with myself, I have plenty to read after that, books that I already own (including Magic Journey: My Fantastical Walt Disney Imagineering Career by Kevin Rafferty). But there is just something about getting a library book and cracking open the binding for the first time…

Sometimes you get lucky and someone who had the book before leaves a checkout receipt inside or a bookmark or something like that. The last book I checked out from the library had a pressed flower inside that was presumably used as a bookmark. With little purple flowers.

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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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