There was a press conference yesterday evening, as always with the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte and the Health minister Hugo de Jonge. This press conference was to discuss the next (hopeful) steps.
Set in stone:
- Higher education will be open from 30 August, with no social distancing
- Lectures are limited to 75 students maximum (to prevent large outbreaks)
- Testing is encouraged but not required
Possible, if all goes well, from 20 September:
- Social distancing is no longer required anywhere (but can be practiced if desired)
- Face masks are no longer required on public transportation (which means they are not required anywhere, although hospitals and corona test centers would probably still want to keep the rule in place for some time)
- Businesses that want to have more than 75 guests can use the Coronacheck app. This app generates a QR code which displays a green check mark if the user is vaccinated, has a recent negative test result or has had corona in the last 6 months.
- The strong advice to work from home where possible will be removed (they removed it for a few weeks in late June but it quickly came back during the last wave)
This will be decided and announced during a press conference on 17 September.
Possible, if all goes well, from 1 November:
- Night clubs / dance clubs will be allowed to open again
- The CoronaCheck app will no longer be needed for domestic use
- All Covid-related measures will be dropped except for the base rules (hand washing, staying home if you have corona-like symptoms, coughing and sneezing into your elbow, etc.).
The government has also launched a website, prikkenzonderafspraak.com (vaccination without appointment) for anyone who has not made an appointment yet. The website lists the sites that are open without appointment so that people can walk in at a time convenient for them and get vaccinated. You then book an appointment for the second dose.
I think there is a good chance that 20 September goes ahead, but it remains to be seen if all measures can be lifted on 1 November or not. The government’s reasoning is that everyone 12 years and up has had a chance to make an appointment, and that at some point we need to go back to “normal”. The main worry is that the 1.8 millions adults who don’t yet have a vaccination would all end up in the hospital in the fall, putting too much strain on the hospitals. We will have to wait and see. I do expect the numbers to start going up again–there is no way around it as measures are being lifted. However, hopefully the numbers will keep decreasing until 30 August when higher education opens up again so that the numbers are lower in mid-September.
Formula 1 is coming back to the Netherlands this year, the first time since 1985. It will be held in the dunes of Zandvoort. The race should have happened last year, however due to Covid-19 the Dutch Grand Prix organizers decided to pull out of the racing schedule rather than have a race without fans. Fast forward to this month, where the organizers are (cautiously) planning for 105,000 visitors a day on 2, 3 and 4 September.
My favorite part to read about is the preparations the national Dutch train company has put in place for this event. At the moment 2 to 6 trains arrive in Zandvoort (a beach town) every hour. During the F1 event, 12 trains will arrive every hour, one every 5 minutes. In that way 10,000 people can be transported to the race every hour. That infrastructure did not exist before the F1 deal was signed; it was built in the last few years. During the race weekend the area will all but be inaccessible by car – you would need a special pass to reach it, even if you are just trying to visit the beach. So, the train is definitely the way to go.
Zandvoort preparing for Grand Prix despite Covid restrictions from nltimes.nl. There is of course a bit of uncertainty in the air, since last minute Covid restrictions could put a stop to the plans to be at full capacity. Since the Grand Prix is categorized as a sporting event and everyone has assigned seating, being at full capacity is currently allowed. That might change between now and the beginning of September, depending on how the Covid situation develops in the Netherlands. At the moment cases are decreasing at an average of 40-45% per week, so that is very good news. But you never know.
I am now fully vaccinated. I received my second shot (Pfizer) this afternoon. The location was less busy than when I received my first vaccination on 21 June, but that week the Netherlands vaccinated just under 1.5 million people and this week there are around 1 million appointments. I think the main difference is that there are less people getting their first shot and more getting their second, but vaccine deliveries could also be playing a small part.
We still have at least 3-4 weeks to go at this rate, if you consider that the Netherlands opened vaccinations to the general population based on birth year. I’m 38, so there’s still at least 20 years behind me waiting for their second shot. If you also consider that vaccinations were only recently opened to 12-17 year olds, you could imagine this going on for another 2-3 months at a reduced rate.
Above is the sign by the vaccination location, the Broodfabriek in Rijswijk. Literally translated as “the bread factory”, which it used to be years ago. In recent years it is an event center and this year it is rented out to The Hague’s Public Health department for the vaccination program.
Apparently even the littlest bikes can be left out on the street. It is very Dutch, although I don’t see usually bikes this small on the street:
And in other news, the Netherlands have managed to mess things up again yet. Even with the delta variant starting to hit Europe, they decided to relax more measures than expected in late June, including only requiring face maks on public transportation and opening dance clubs without social distancing restrictions. To enter the dance club one needed to either be vaccinated or take a test that was not older than 40 hours. But one could be considered “vaccinated” if they received the J&J vaccine earlier in the day and went clubbing that night. And as you know, it takes a bit of time to build up some protection, especially against the Delta variant…
Check it out:
And really, I think the only reason today is lower is that it is Sunday. If we continue at this rate testing numbers will look like they have stabilized but in reality we have merely hit the maximum number of tests we can analyze per day.
See also: Misuse of access testing may be behind Covid outbreak at Enschede club from nltimes.nl. Out of 600 visitors, 180 of them got corona. This was the first weekend dance clubs were open again.
Note: I don’t think it was the fault of anyone who visited dance clubs, especially not in the first weekend. Clubs have been closed for over a year, so of course people will be desperate to go there, especially with the carrot of not needing to social distance. And yes, the Dutch government is following the UK model where a higher amount of cases is okay provided the number of hospital admissions or deaths does not increase drastically. But it would have been a bit better if they could have waited an extra 4-6 weeks so that more people could get fully vaccinated.
It just means I am counting down the days until my second vaccine even more than before. Almost there!
Let me tell you, it is weird to walk into a supermarket and see only 33% of the workers and customers still wearing a face mask. Today the Netherlands dropped most of the corona restrictions: Full list of coronavirus restrictions as of June 26 from nltimes.nl.
It is weird to see others’ faces inside. I still have a face mask on, both for myself and others who aren’t vaccinated yet. It’s possible some appointments could be moved up but some of the younger folk won’t get their first shot until the first week of July and they second shot in mid-August. Right now the Netherlands has a 5 week gap between the first and second shots for Pfizer and Moderna, although maybe if we are lucky and there is extra supply they will bring the second shot forward to 4 weeks? We’ll see.
At this point you only need to wear a face mask on public transportation or in areas where you can’t keep 1.5 meters (5 distance) from others. As the prime minister Mark Rutte says, everything that is possible at 1.5 meters is allowed again. For instance you can go back to work 50% of the time if social distancing can be maintained. The sale of alcohol and marijuana is again allowed after 22:00 and there is no restriction on opening hours for restaurants or cafés.
One interesting thing is that night clubs are allowed to be open again, having been closed since March 2020 (!). Since social distancing is all but impossible, you either need to have proof that you are fully vaccinated or you need to take a corona test; the negative test can be no older than 40 hours old. Of course, to enter the night club you need to have your negative test result. One problem with that? Covid access testing waiting times caused by cyberattack from nltimes.nl. Yep, the testen voor toegang (tests for entry) platform was hacked yesterday causing some test results to arrive hours too late or not arrived at all. Most problems seem to be fixed today, at least.
Some other news:
Silent disco ended over noise complaints from nltimes.nl. What are silent discos, you ask? Everyone wears headphones while they listen to the music, making it seem like everyone is dancing to nothing. “Many people were shouting to one another in the house, according to the newspaper. Attendees were wearing headphones, and were unable to hear each other without raising their voices.” Opps?
Let out coronavirus frustration at Vijfhuizen “rage room” from nltimes.nl. Here is a snippet: “At the demolition site in Vijfhuizen, a special route has been set up allowing visitors to vent their rage for as little as 25 euros. It starts with smashing cups and plates on six stacked cars defaced with text such as ‘curfew’ or ‘work from home’. In the next part, visitors frustrated with working from home are able to unleash their anger by breaking a printer or a monitor.”
For the American readers among us, Janssen is the J&J vaccination. The Netherlands has one of three factories in the world producing the vaccine. The name of the Dutch company producing it is Janssen, hence why it has a different name here in Europe. The distribution of the Janssen vaccine in the Netherlands (and Europe) isn’t that high, though. Here in the Netherlands we have received about 250,000 Janssen shots compared to 10 million Pfizer shots.
A month or two ago the Dutch government decided that due to the extremely rare risk of blood clots the vaccine would not be given to anyone under the age of 60. However, more recently the government decided to allow everyone 18 and older the choice to book a Janssen vaccine appointment, from today. There are 200,000 vaccines available. There are some advantages, especially for those who want to travel over the summer. You only need one shot and you can generally get a Janssen appointment much faster than two appointments for Pfizer or Moderna. Some lucky souls were able to book a Janssen appointment from this Friday. Otherwise that age group was looking at getting their second vaccine appointment in mid-August.
The government also makes it easy to switch your appointments. Everyone was encouraged to book mRNA vaccine (Pfizer/Moderna) appointments even if there was a chance you might want Janssen instead. Provided you haven’t received your first shot yet you are allowed to call and switch your appointment to Janssen, no questions asked. It has always been easy to switch your appointments here in the Netherlands, though it gets a bit more complicated if you want two different locations or you are re-booking your second appointment when you got Moderna during your first appointment since Moderna is much rarer here.
The thing is, the government announced a few weeks ago that anyone over the age of 18 would be able to book an Janssen appointment this week but that there would only be 200,000 doses available. A few days ago they announced that you could call from today, however the phone number to call wasn’t released until this morning. The government had 3,500 workers on standby to take calls.
…you can imagine the chaos, yes?
The Guardian reported that some Dutch vaccination centers are offering free pickled herring as an incentive to get the vaccine. June 15 is usually Vlaggetjesdag (Dutch Wikipedia), translated as “little flag day” because fishing ships would be decorated with flags on the Saturday before Pentecost. It is the day that the season’s first barrel of herring is auctioned off for a good cause and the day that herring starts appearing in supermarkets. Last year the first barrel was given to medical workers and this year the first barrel was given to the GGD health service; GGD is responsible for Covid-19 vaccinations in the Netherlands.
If you were lucky enough to be around IJmuiden you could also receive free herring after your vaccination (article from Haarlems Dagblad, but it’s behind a paywall).
In case you are wondering: I would politely decline if I was offered any. But for some Dutchies the first herring of the year can be a big thing.
First off: while the government has not officially announced it, the requirement to wear a face mask and the strong advice to work at home will probably disappear from 26 June. Two exceptions: you still need to wear a face mask in public transportation (but probably not supermarkets). You can also only go back to work if your office can guarantee that you are keeping the 1.5 meters rule (5 feet).
Dutch article from nos.nl: Mondkapjes af en niet langer thuiswerken mits 1,5 meter afstand per 26 juni
English article from dutchnews.nl: Have face masks had their day? They are up for discussion, minister confirms
My thought? It feels a bit rushed, on both counts. I’ve gotten used to wearing face masks (at least inside or on my way to somewhere inside). Working from the office? I’m not sure about that either. Previously my office said not before 1 September. But either way, they said people could work from home if they wanted through December, at which time the policy would be reviewed again.
In even bigger news: I got my first vaccination today (Pfizer)! I definitely felt the shot right away; it pinched a bit but nothing bad. My arm has been getting more sore throughout the day but it hasn’t affected typing or anything like that. I also have a bit of a headache, but as that started before the shot I’m not sure if it is related or not.
Covid quick tests for home use have been available at Dutch supermarkets for the last month or two. Today I noticed a pile of tests by the self-checkout. I am sure they have always been there and that I just hadn’t noticed them.
The government has a page (in Dutch) listing which quick tests are officially recognized in the Netherlands.
In other news: five new islands have been added to the Netherlands in a 78 million euro project. The Dutch are known for reclaiming land from the sea, as you probably know. This dutchnews.nl article says the islands have been reclaimed for use in nature.
Also: Golden Carriage arrives at Amsterdam Museum after restoration from dutchnews.nl. The golden carriage needed to be maneuvered into position with a crane, as the carriage was placed in the (inner) courtyard. The museum used to be an orphanage and orphans had helped design the carriage back in 1898, hence why it is going on display there after a five year renovation.
Around lunchtime today I went to The Guardian’s website to check the news. Instead, I see a white screen with a tiny error message. As I have done countless times over the years, I then went to to Down for Everyone or Just Me. The website reassured me that the error wasn’t just on my side. Around then work got crazy again, so I forgot about it for a while (until work was less crazy and I could actually make some lunch).
It turns out the error hit more than just The Guardian. See also this article: Massive internet outage hits websites including Amazon, gov.uk and Guardian from theguardian.com. The best part of the article? This quote: “The Guardian moved to Twitter to run a dedicated liveblog, while tech news site the Verge published news to a shared Google Doc – until a reporter accidentally shared a link on Twitter that allowed the audience to edit it.” Opps…?
Also, from dutchnews.nl: Zandvoort organisers expect 50,000 F1 fans to cycle to Grand Prix. In other words, park at a nearby parking lot and hop on a bike to get to the race track. This September, the Netherlands will be hosting the first Dutch Grand Prix since 1985 (!). It was supposed to happen last year but it was cancelled due to corona. The organizers rightfully did not want to hold the race without fans. I suspect there would have been huge riots if they had tried. The best part (even though it is not in the article)? There will also be a special bus line with the number #33 – aka, Max Verstappen’s number.
And from nltimes.nl: GGD Utrecht gives away 1,200 Covid-19 vaccines after power failure kills cold storage. The best part here? They had so many people show up they had to turn people away. Of course, the vaccines were first offered to healthcare workers or safety workers in the region and then the offer was opened to the public. It was 1,200 Janssen vaccines (J&J vaccines for any Americans reading this) so one shot was enough. The site brought in extra workers to manage the crowds and stayed open past midnight. Nicely done!