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?
A few minutes ago a lot of radio stations played You’ll Never Walk Alone by Gerry and the Pacemakers. The original idea to play it this morning at 08:45 came from the Dutch DJ Sander Hoogendoorn from the radio station 3FM. The idea spread first in The Netherlands, and then to all of Europe. Officially 183 European radio stations signed up to the action (article in Dutch), but even the radio station we were listening to (Arrow Classic Rock) played the song at 08:45.
Walk on, walk on With hope in your heart And you’ll never walk alone
Four working days into the new reality: a look at De Passage (“The Passage“), the oldest shopping centre in The Netherlands.
This was taken yesterday morning around 10:00. Quite empty, considering shops would normally start opening around then. In the far distance, not quite viewable, is the entrance to Bijenkorf. Yesterday they announced that they would be closing all stores in The Netherlands for the foreseeable future (article – scroll for English). The day before that, Ikea closed all of their physical stores. They did this out of necessity, since so many customers were coming to the stores due to everything else being closed (article in Dutch).
The prime minister announced during an evening press conference that visitors would no longer be welcome at nursing homes (article in Dutch). Exceptions would be made for residents who are expected to pass away soon. There are also warnings from the Dutch healthcare system expects at least 500 to 1,000 patients in the ICU next week. As of today there are 210 in the ICU. Therefore they have begun moving some of those patients to other hospitals, freeing up beds in the harder hit parts of the country (article in Dutch).
A group of students have also begun providing unofficial translations of the Dutch public broadcast NOS, in an aptly named Facebook group NOS in English.
The main railway operator in The Netherlands, the NS, has announced that from Saturday their trains would be running a ‘basic service’ schedule. This means that most stations will only have two trains per hour, except in cases where there was only one train per hour – that will stay the same. Most trains will be sprinters (stop at every station) with only a few important north/south and east/west lines having intercitys (stop at important stops only).
This was expected – on Friday public transportation usage dropped 50% in comparison with a normal day. From Monday there were 85% less travellers.
The picture above is of the tram tunnel underneath the Grote Marktstraat this past Saturday afternoon. There’s almost no one on the other side, which is unheard of even late at night.
HTM, the bus and tram service of The Hague has also published the changes that have occurred or will occur (information in Dutch). On Friday HTM began blocking off the first door for all buses and all trams where it was relevant. Travelers need to use a different door to enter and exit, in the hopes that contact between travelers and drivers is as limited as possible.
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.
This evening the Dutch government tightened their rules regarding the COVID-19 crisis which will be in effect until (at least) 6 April. Schools will be required to close from tomorrow. Cafes, restaurants, coffee shops, sport schools, daycares, sex shops and more were closed from 18:00 this evening (basically the moment the press conference ended) until 6 April. Supermarkets will remain open.
The photo above is now out of date. I took it this afternoon to show that the Central Library was closed, while the other (smaller) branches were still partially open. This was acceptable since generally only the Central Library would have more than 100 persons inside at any given time. But thanks to the new measures introduced by the Dutch government this evening, all branches are closed until 6 April.
I think that is one of the stranger things about this situation – information and rules change by the day, if not faster.
Luckily persons in ‘vital’ professions like health care, police and firefighters would be able to take their children to a free daycare, much like the system that Belgium had sent up. Although I do think both caregivers have to be in ‘vital’ professions to take advantage of this ruling. This was all but required of course – the prime minister’s opposition to closing schools was that it would mean persons in vital professions would not be able to go into work.
As you are well aware, most countries are taken precautions against the corona virus. On Thursday evening, the Dutch prime minister announced additional precautions which are currently in effect through March 31: where possible, work from home. No gatherings of more than 100 people are allowed. Universities and higher education institutions are closing their doors, but also trying to get online learning set up in the meantime. For now, the lower schools are still open.
While the press conference was held on Thursday evening, most of my coworkers and I did go into work on Friday. We received word late in the day that the office would be closed from 13:00 on Monday, with only supervised entry allowed between then and March 31.
We have Monday morning to get anything we need from the building, although most of us saw this coming and started bringing stuff home on Thursday. There were limited monitors available for people to take home, although they went fast.
In theory I don’t mind working from home. It’s doable, if not always comfortable. It’s not something I would willingly do, however. At least our company is pretty prepared – another office in a different country has already been closed for 5 weeks (!!).
I’m looking forward to going back in when this is all over, although there were a lot of jokes going around that we wouldn’t see each other for months. A few coworkers were flying back home (England, Spain, etc.) to be closer to family in the meantime. Their theory was they can work from anywhere and at least this way if they got stuck in a country it would be with their family.
No gatherings of 100 or more people
This decision is country wide. Some provinces have taken it a step farther and said that gatherings of 100 or more people would be punishable. Some aspects of daily life are affected that you wouldn’t expect: for instance the Central Library in the city centre is closed, because there are generally more than 100 patrons inside. For the moment the smaller branches are open, although all events are canceled through the end of the month.
Other events that are in jeopardy in the next few months are the Dutch Grand Prix (2020 was the first time it was to be held in The Netherlands since 1985) and the Eurovision song contest to be held in Rotterdam.
School openings / closure
The Dutch prime minister has faced a LOT of criticism for allowing the lower schools to stay open. His reasoning is that children are not the target age group for getting the virus and that it would bring the economy to a standstill. However, children can still be carriers… Either way, I suspect there will be a press conference on Sunday evening at the latest saying they are changing their mind and schools will be closed from Monday.
‘Hamsteren’ – frenzied stockpiling
Shortly after the press conference a lot of people went to the supermarkets and raided items like toilet paper, pasta, rice… ‘Hamsteren’ is a Dutch verb for what hamsters do, taking as much as they can and then more. The supermarket Albert Heijn was one of the harder hit. Yesterday on Twitter the posted this tweet:
It’s a message saying that they understand that some products are temporarily not available. They then go on to say that the distribution centers are full and that stores are supplied multiple times a day. They are working as hard as they can to keep the shelves stocked. If you’re on the AH mailing list you also received a longer email last night talking about the situation (both keeping the shelves full and disinfecting the store) to help put customers at ease.
Of course, it doesn’t stop people from stockpiling. Here’s a look at an Albert Heijn at lunchtime yesterday:
Still some potatoes left to grab, of course. Or harder hit, the toilet paper / paper towels area:
Who needs toilet paper. 🙂 It was also very busy in the store with lines everywhere. Not fun when you’re just coming in to get some lunch.
Marco and I went after work to another Albert Heijn and it was quieter. But by then the pasta, rice, eggs and most of the chicken were gone. Don’t get me wrong, though. There’s still plenty of food in the store. It’s the same thing that happens when a storm hits. It happens. It’s just hard for people to ignore the herd mentality of stockpiling. It’s hard for me to ignore, but that’s why I have Marco, who is much more logical than I am.
And finally, a video from Instagram/TikTok where someone splices over an Albert Heijn logo and the Albert Heijn theme song during some scenes of the movie World War Z: