Soualiga Newsday Features

Soualiga Newsday Features (2917)

Festivals with up to 750 visitors can go ahead from mid August

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Small one-day outdoor festivals with up to 750 visitors can be held under strict conditions from August 14, the cabinet has decided.

But bigger events, with thousands of people, are still out of the question, even if they don’t involve overnight stays, ministers said on Monday.

To attend a small outdoor event – which can take place in a tent if all four sides are open – visitors will have to show they are fully vaccinated, have a negative test no older than 24 hours, or have had coronavirus within the past six months.

The organisers of festivals and events which cannot now go ahead can claim compensation from the government’s special coronavirus funds.

The cabinet’s decision follows recommendations from its Outbreak Management Team experts who say that it is only responsible to decide about small scale events at the moment.

The decision should have been taken on August 13 but has been brought forward at the request of event organisers who said they would take the cabinet to court unless they had clarity earlier.

Last week the cabinet decided that multi-day festivals could not be held until September 1 at least because of the infection risk. At least 62 clusters of at least 20 coronavirus infections were identified in the two weeks that restrictions on cafes, clubs and festivals were lifted, according to figures put together by public health institute RIVM.



Coronavirus infections continue to decline, drop on last Monday is almost 50%

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A total of 2,136 positive coronavirus tests were reported to public health institute RIVM in the 24 hours to Monday morning, down almost 50% on a week ago.

An average of 3,252 positive tests a day were registered in the past seven days, which is down 43% on the previous week and a further sign that the downward trend is steady.

As expected, however, the number of hospital patients continues to rise. In total, 719 people are now being treated for coronavirus in hospital. Of them, 197 are in an intensive care ward, according to figures from national patient monitor LCPS.

Cases of coronavirus have also been recorded in 148 nursing homes over the past two weeks, compared with 102 in the previous count. The RIVM will publish its latest weekly update on Tuesday, when the R figure and number of vaccinations will also be updated.



New coronavirus infections, hospital admissions decline

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A total of 3,463 new coronavirus cases were reported to the public health institute RIVM in the 24 hours to Friday morning, below the average of 4,160 per day over the past week.

At the same time, fewer people were admitted to hospital – 68 compared with a weekly average of 86 – according to the government’s coronavirus dashboard.

Blood donation service Sanquin now says 93% of blood donors have coronavirus antibodies, most of which is down to vaccinations.

The figure is not representative of the population because blood donors tend to be older. In total, some 60% of Dutch adults are now fully vaccinated.



Netherlands unlikely to introduce compulsory vaccination

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch employers and unions will not be lobbying for compulsory vaccination against coronovirus because the high vaccination rate in the Netherlands would make such a controversial move unnecessary, Dutch media report.

The reaction came as Google and Facebook introduced compulsory vaccination for their American-based staff and similar moves are underway elsewhere. However, the consistent refusal of part of the population to be vaccinated and the rapid spread of the virus may change this, the Financieele Dagblad said.

Earlier this month caretaker prime minister Mark Rutte said considering the ‘very high vaccination rate’ there are no plans to make vaccination compulsory but that ‘nothing can be ruled out completely in a pandemic’.

A spokesman for employers’ organisation VNO-NCW told the paper compulsory vaccination ‘is not an issue for members at all’. ‘Some 90% of people are willing to be vaccinated, that is extremely high.

There is no need for further measures,’ he said. Union FNV said it had not had any complaints from workers who had been pressurised into getting vaccinated by their employers.

‘What Facebook and Google are doing is simply not allowed here,’ a spokesman said. However, labour law lawyer Katja van Kranenburg, who has been fielding questions about the subject on a weekly basis from international employers, said that this is not the case.

‘The European privacy regulations do provide an opening for this, contrary to popular opinion,’ Van Kranenburg claimed. ‘I think that in a healthy democracy this should be a matter for debate and should not be left up to employers to organise in a grey area.’

While compulsory vaccination is not yet being contemplated for any groups in this country, France and Italy are already introducing compulsory vaccination for healthcare workers.

That would be a start, Van Kranenburg told the paper. Labour law regulations should be adapted to allow employers in high-risk professions to demand staff be vaccinated. She also pointed out that businesses may be held liable for damages by coronavirus patients who have been infected at work because of a lack of preventive measures.

Such a move would be very likely to flounder as most political parties are not in favour of compulsory vaccination, the NRC pointed out. Self-determination and the integrity of the body are enshrined in the Dutch constiution and the European Convention of Human Rights.

The consensus is that the government cannot force people to get the vaccine. People’s willingness to be vaccinated is ‘our trump card’, the paper quoted caretaker health minister Hugo de Jonge as saying.

To bring the matter up for debate could have an opposite effect, he warned earlier this week.



130 people at Verknipt festival had coronavirus before they arrived: GGD

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – At least 130 people who attended the Vernipt techo festival in Utrecht earlier this month were probably already infected with coronavirus when they came in, the regional health board said on Thursday.

Over 1,100 people have tested positive for coronavirus since attending the two-day festival but the outbreak is unlikely to have been caused by a single super spreader, the health board’s infectious disease specialist says.

Putri Hintaran studied data from the festival and information generated by contact tracing afterwards. She now says it is likely that in one third of the cases she is researching, the person already had coronavirus when they arrived.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud with QR codes, she said. Instead, many of the festival goers did not know they were infected because fast tests of up to 40 hours old were being accepted as proof of being coronavirus-free.

That has now been cut back to 24 hours. The government has also brought in a ban on festivals with large groups of people.


Meanwhile, the 200 infections picked up at the Aspen Valley disco in Enschede are now thought to be down to one person. Council research suggests that the surge in cases was down to a super spreader who had a negative coronavirus test, website reported.


In an effort to control the virus under the young, the Zeeland health board is handing out free self-tests to people staying on popular campsite. The Duin en Strand campsite is extremely popular with youngsters and has space for 1,700 guests a week.

‘We want to prevent them infecting their parents and grandparents when they get home from holiday,’ a spokeswoman told local broadcaster Omroep Zeeland.



Ventilation in Dutch bars falls far below the WHO norm: NRC

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch rules surrounding ventilation in bars and restaurants are well below the norm recommended by the World Health Organisation, the NRC reported on Thursday.

A new law on the sale of alcohol which came into force on July 1 and which is meant to curb alcohol abuse, particularly among the young, also lowered the ventilation norm for bars and restaurants.

Instead of a complete change of air every ten minutes, the new law stipulates an hourly air change for existing premises, in accordance with the Bouwbesluit, a health and safety guideline which is not aimed at reducing infections but at limiting smells, experts told the paper.

They said the outgoing cabinet has ‘acted irresponsibly’ by lowering the norm at a time when bars have been an important source of coronavirus infections. Health institute RIVM was not asked for advice, the paper found.

A spokesman called the new ventilation norm ‘minimal’. The government’s Outbreak Management Team has advised stricter ventilation norms although it is not known which levels of ventilation are necessary to prevent infection in closed spaces.

As yet it is unclear if the government will follow the OMT recommendation. Caretaker prime minister Mark Rutte admitted earlier this month that the importance of good ventilation has not been ‘communicated well’ but this only referred to people’s homes, which he said should be ventilated every 15 minutes.



Youths suspected of Majorca beating will be tried in the Netherlands

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch nationals suspected of the fatal attack on Carlo Heuvelman in Majorca two weeks ago will be tried in the Netherlands after all, following a request from the Spanish investigating judge, the public prosecution office has announced.

‘The Spanish judge in the case has ruled that the investigation should be carried out by the Dutch authorities. We have honoured that request,’ OM spokesman Bart Nitrauw told broadcaster NOS.

The Spanish prosecution office did not explain its decision, but according to Leiden University professor Jannemieke Ouwerkerk, one reason may the complexity of the case.

‘The Spanish authorities may have decided that to issue an individual European arrest warrant for each of the men would be too complex a process. Each warrant needs to specify exactly who is being charged with what.

Another reason may be that the family of the victim has put in a request for the case to be tried here,’ Ouwerkerk said. Ouwerkerk said a transfer may have been on the cards quite early on.

Last week the Dutch prosecution office started its own investigation after two other Dutch nationals claimed they were assaulted by the same group who attacked Heuvelman.

These cases will be added to the file, the prosecution department said. International lawyer Bob Kaarls said the fact the men fled the island before they could be apprehended made things very difficult for Spanish police.

‘And I can imagine that the authorities in Majorca are not keen for media attention to focus on tourists being the victims of violence there,’ he added.


The transfer is not straightforward. The Dutch prosecution office will still have to ascertain that the people who have been named as suspects are suspects according to Dutch law, and all the documents pertaining to the case will have to be translated into Dutch, which could take up to two weeks.

There is, however, plenty of video footage available in which witnesses are heard to speak Dutch and the Dutch prosecution office has called on these people to come forward.

A trial in the Netherlands will help the alleged perpetrators, Ouwerkerk said. ‘It’s better for them to be tried here where they can understand the language,’ she said. As far as sentencing is concerned, she said that despite differences in the judicial systems the actual time served for a crime is likely to be more or less the same.



Hospital admissions continue to rise, IT issues hit infection figures

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of people admitted to hospital with coronavirus continued to rise in the 24 hours to Wednesday morning, with an average of 94 new patients per day over the past week.

The increase means that the number of hospital beds occupied by coronavirus patients has risen from 428 to 629 in a seven-day period. Of them, 164 patients are now in intensive care.

Public health institute RIVM reported 3,513 new coronavirus cases by Wednesday morning, but this figure is likely to be an underestimation because of technical problems.



Police seek attackers of teen who told them ‘I am who I am’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Police are looking for witnesses to an attack on a teenager in a playground in Amstelveen on Monday afternoon. The girl, Frédérique (14) was accosted by a group of boys who demanded to know if she was ‘a boy or a girl’, the victim’s father said on LinkedIn, where messages of support have been pouring in.

When she answered ‘what does that matter? I am who I am and you can be whatever you want to be’ she was repeatedly hit in the face. Her father said she had to go to hospital to be treated for a fractured jaw and a broken nose.

Police are looking for five boys between the ages of 11 and 14 and are currently studying surveillance camera footage from the area. They are treating the attack as possibly related to violence aimed at the LGBTI community, which they said is being treated as a priority.

The girl’s father said he is ‘incredibly proud’ of his daughter, who is now recovering at home. ‘My child Frédérique is not transgender, she just says she is who she is,’ he told broadcaster NH Nieuws.



R rate shrinks, fewer positive tests: has the corner been turned?

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of positive coronavirus tests in the Netherlands almost halved last week to 37,343 when compared with the week-earlier period, public health institute RIVM said on Tuesday in its latest weekly update.

The decline also took the R, or reproduction rate, to 0.8, compared with 1.75 a week ago, the RIVM said. The percentage of positive tests has also gone down from 15.4% last week to 13.5%.

Some 11% of those testing positive for coronavirus had been fully vaccinated, the RIVM said. Over 20 million vaccine doses have now been given in the Netherlands and almost 60% of adults are fully vaccinated.

According to the government’s Outbreak Management Team advisors, the RIVM also expects the maximum number of intensive care patients suffering from coronavirus to be around 250 in the coming weeks.

However, this estimate is based in infection rates continuing to decline, the RIVM said. There are currently around 160 coronavirus patients in intensive care, compared with 840 in early April.

At the same time, a total of 538 people were admitted to hospital in the past seven days, double the previous week’s figure. Of them, 180 were admitted on Monday.


Broadcaster NOS reports that the cabinet’s decision to relax the rules for European travel on Monday went against the OMT’s own recommendations.

The OMT would have preferred to keep the tougher rules until September, to head of the risk of people bringing infections back from their summer holidays, but has, nevertheless, described the government decision as responsible, NOS said.

However, the government has said that everyone returning from holiday elsewhere within the EU, whether vaccinated or not, should take a test on their return.


Subscribe to this RSS feed

Soualiga Radio